INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Before voters cast their ballots on Election Day, many received text messages encouraging them to vote and even addressing them by name.
Some viewers told CBS4 they were concerned about the text messages, which also provided information about their voting history and referenced a polling place near their home address.
These types of text messages are legal, according to officials with both the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office and the Marion County Election Board.
Marjorie Hershey, an Indiana University political science professor and expert on elections and media coverage, said the information is coming from local election boards, supermarket preference cards and even magazine subscriptions data that the two national parties have added to their databases.
“The two national parties have humongous databases that cover at least about 170 million people apiece,” Hershey said. “That’s pretty much the number of people who could be expected to vote in a given of election.”
Text messages are a direct way to reach voters. It’s similar to how people receive calls on or around Election Day encouraging them to vote. Since many people screen their calls these days thanks to the proliferation of spam calls and scammers, a text message can get the job done.
“Keep in mind that people not answering their phones is generational thing. It varies with age,” she said.
“Texting is also generational in nature. Younger people are a lot more likely to do it than older people are, at least that’s a proportion of the total people in that age group. And the thing is that it’s the younger people that stay home on Election Day.”
Still, Hershey said the texts won’t replace traditional voter outreach, adding that door-to-door campaigning is still the most effective way to get voters’ attention.
“If this is going to be a tool, it’s probably going to be adopted in addition to rather than instead of lots of other kinds of campaign contacting.”
The problem, in Hershey’s view, is that people will ignore the texts or simply erase them.
“I think we are really skilled at pressing the delete key and I think that’s a response that a lot of people are going to make to cold texting.”