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Political text messages playing increasing role in Arizona election

Posted: 11:47 PM, Oct 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-17 11:49:34Z

With three weeks until the November election, some Arizonans are seeing political messages everywhere, even on their phones. Elections experts say it's a strategy, and there's not much you can do about it. 

Political parties and groups supporting specific candidates can send you messages about ballots and candidates to your phone because it's protected speech. They are not restricted by things like the "Do Not Call" list, which only prevents companies selling products from reaching out. However, the way they send these messages is restricted.

These parties can't use robocalls or automated text messaging to get their message across. Instead, to comply with the law staff or volunteers must manually send messages to each individual voter. One elections attorney says many parties and groups behind the messages are likely using new technology to their advantage.

“There are these new apps that allow the parties to send a bunch of texts very quickly in a way that may be legal,” Kory Langhofer said. “I think it’s fair to say that the apps were created to get around the laws prohibiting automatic text messages to cell phones.”

The programs generate the messages on their own, but they can be personalized, and then, a person needs to hit the send button themselves. Langhofer says parties who use this technology are working in a "grey area," or using a loophole, but could still be at risk for serious fines.

The FCC bans robocalls and texts, and while these apps haven't been regulated or tested in court, if they find they don't fall under allowed communication, each group could face millions of dollars in fines. Each text could cost them between $500 to $1500.

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