By now, you've probably received one or many text messages from political candidates this election season. Texting for support is all the rage among political campaigns, as candidates look to reach out beyond traditional ads or direct mailers. "We're used to getting direct mail and we're used to getting e-mail, but something that comes in a text message is really new, and in a lot of ways there's no protection against that yet," says Audrea Decker, political strategist and president of im2moro.
One of the reasons there's no protection against these political texts is because laws restricting robocalls don't apply to them. Those laws require an opt-in for any computer or auto-dialed calls, but campaign texts come from real people. "They actually have a physical person sending the text message---we call it peer-to-peer texting," says Decker. "And that's what we're seeing these campaigns utilize."
Indeed, the Bernie Sanders campaign says it has 12,000 people texting voters. As for how the campaigns get your phone number, many do it through public voter registration databases. "We actually sign away a lot of our rights in that fine print that we so often check the box on when we're giving out our phone number, and that's how these campaigns are getting people's phone numbers," says Decker.
Annoying as it may be to many people, campaigns are unlikely to back off of texting anytime soon. Unlike calls, e-mail, direct mail, or social media ads which can all be ignored, texts hit people directly. "We know that people read their text messages, so I think this will prove to be highly effective," says Decker. "And I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a common campaign tactic."
For now, the best defense to unwanted political texts is to reply and ask the campaign to stop or remove you from their list, or to just block the number.