Voter-Registration Groups Call On Mobiles
By Carlo Longino, Thu May 27 15:15:00 GMT 2004

A few US nonprofits have started collecting potential young voters' mobile numbers, planning to call and text-message them in the runup to November's election.

Textually turned us on to this piece in The New York Times (reg. req'd) about how groups targeting young voters plan to hound them and sell or pass along their contact information to other political organizations and candidates so they can pester these potential voters as well.

Just as Douglas Rushkoff previously wondered if putting voting on the same level as free concert tickets and CDs, as Rock the Mobile Vote does, was wise, I've got to question if equating voting to telemarketing makes much sense.

"The idea is to increase youth voter participation by helping candidates and political organizations to reach young people," The NYT tells us. One of the groups, the New Voters Project, which has so far collected about 20,000 mobile numbers from college-age young people, puts a sticky note on the state voter-registration forms its volunteers get kids to fill out asking for an e-mail address and a mobile number, and if the new voter "wants election information".

Of course, they call it opt-in, so it must be okay (where have we heard that before?). While it's fantastic that these groups are trying to shake young Americans' political apathy, selling their name and numbers to political telemarketers doesn't seem the right way to do it -- particularly when they're asking for cell numbers, making the intrusion particularly personal. Bothering these first-time voters with calls and messages they more than likely have no interest in, essentially putting political candidates and issues on par with all the fantastic products and causes telemarketers harrass us to hawk, isn't the best way to marry democracy and mobility.