Florida voters get the message, lots of them, ahead of midterms

The Virginian-Pilot

As Election Day approaches, cellphones across Florida will buzz as campaigns send huge numbers of unsolicited texts to voters with the assistance of new apps and programs. 

Some people find the messages annoying, but political consultants say texting voters is the breakout mode of communications for the 2018 elections. Republican political consultant Alex Patton said he and two of his friends sent 33,000 texts to educate voters about a Gainesville ballot initiative while sipping beers at a local brewery.

Campaigns say they don’t need consent to initiate a conversation. The Federal Election Commission has advised that text messages don’t need a “paid for” disclaimer because cellphones “have limits on both the size and the length of the information that can be conveyed.”

That advisory opinion was written in 2002 when flip-phones were the norm. Partisan gridlock has prevented the FEC from updating its rules to provide clear direction on small digital ads, said Corey Goldstone, a spokesman with the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog organization. “Campaigns often exploit the ambiguity left open by the FEC,” Goldstone said.

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