Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2012

October 13, 2012

Residents reel from an invasion of robo-calls

Federal Do Not Call Registry doesn't apply to political calls

TRAVERSE CITY — A few weeks ago, Raoul "Buck" Montgomery found it humorous when political polling and automated phone calls began to trickle into his East Bay Township home.

But comical turned to ridiculous as the volume of calls increased, Montgomery said. Now the phone rings with political messages up to a dozen times per day. These days he's just plain aggravated.

"I've never seen it like this," Montgomery said. "Every election it gets worse, but nothing to the extent I get like this. To me, it's an invasion of privacy."

To stem the tide Montgomery contacted his local officials. They were no help. A call to the county Republican headquarters wasn't returned. When he called the county Democratic Party headquarters, the person on the other end of the line started laughing, he said.

"He said he gets the same number of calls at his home and doesn't know how to stop it, but to let him know if I figure something out."

The federal Do Not Call Registry does not apply to political calls. More than half the states have some sort of restriction on automated messages, known as robo-calls, but not Michigan.

Automated calls are a cheap and quick way to contact voters. One online firm, Precision Polling, a Survey Monkey company, said it can contact 10,000 voters in 30 minutes to obtain an average of 500 survey responses. The cost: $1,000.

Some companies advertise costs as low as 1 cent to 2 cents a call to deliver a short recorded message. And not everyone hangs up.

A study by the Pew Research Center during the 2008 presidential election campaign found about 65 percent of people hang up on the callers and just half of those considered the calls a "minor annoyance."

But the calls have moved past "minor" for those who receive 10 or more a day.

Pam Kirt of Traverse City and Liz Laskey of Cedar said the six to 10 calls they receive each day are both annoying and disruptive.

"When you are expecting a phone call, you are going to answer the phone, and then you have to stop whatever you are doing for nothing," Kirt said.

Laskey said she usually just hangs up, but one friend finds out which party is making the call and tells them she is voting the other way.

Montgomery said the calls he receives, mostly from Republicans, are helping push his decision.

"At a certain point they have harangued me long enough that they have lost my vote," Montgomery said. "I'm really an independent ... but the Republicans are pushing me toward (President Barack) Obama because of all the calls they are making."

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