Alaska editorial: Please, no robo calls

Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2010

The following editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Alaskans usually enjoy a bracing political discussion. There might be waving of the arms and raising of the voices on occasions, but we enjoy a healthy airing of opinions.

So as the state's political season heats up, it is not that talking politics is unattractive. However, being talked at, with no chance for trading views or asking questions, is not very helpful.

And it's particularly not helpful when the unilateral tirade intrudes into our homes during, say, the preparation of dinner.

That's what political "robo" calls do. A recorded message tells you to call someone and complain about something, or vote for someone, or - whatever. These calls can't be stopped by registering one's number with the federal Do Not Call registry.

There is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group trying to have an effect similar to the Do Not Call registry. It's called the National Political Do Not Call Registry, and you can learn about it on Briefly, the group distributes its registry database to politicians, PACs, advocacy organizations and "many other exempt groups and ask that they not call those voters that have registered," according to Shaun Dakin, the group's founder, in his notes on the site.

You register your phone number for free. You stay registered for a year, and then are asked to do so the following year.

You'll be asked for your first and last name, an e-mail address, and telephone number(s).

The group doesn't have any authority to prevent politicians from ignoring the voters' wishes and calling them anyway, but Dakin says he hopes the educating politicians will lead them to understand that it isn't in their own interest to anger voters by intruding on their lives against their expressed wish.

It's worth a shot, isn't it? Certainly, we are willing to discuss the issues involved in politics (though not necessarily with pollsters who are trying to help politicians decide what they "believe"). But such a discussion requires active participation on both ends. A tape recording isn't listening; it's just an ad.

Look into the registry, read Dakin's ideas (you can call or write to him if you like; we have, and he's responded) and see if it's something you agree with. If you do, sign up.

Maybe, eventually, they will stop those annoying calls. For now, though, those calls do help us in one way: If all else is equal, they tip the balance against robo-calling candidates asking for our vote.

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