The One Thing You Can Do to Stop the Campaign Mail Deluge | Voice of San Diego

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The One Thing You Can Do to Stop the Campaign Mail Deluge

Spoiler: It’s voting.

Workers sort ballots at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. / Photos by Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft

Registering to vote is free, but San Diego voters still pay a price whenever an election comes around. While annoying robo-calls are out, pushy text messages and Facebook posts are still common. And campaign fliers — as always — are clogging local mailboxes and recycling bins.What can you do to stop the deluge?

Is there any solution other than turning all your devices off and telling the mail carrier to take a hike? (Please don’t do that.) Yup. But you need to hurry and do one thing: vote.

Right now, you can vote by mail or drop off your mail ballot at the registrar of voters office. Once you cast a ballot, the flood should become a trickle, at least outside the world of social media. “As a general rule of thumb, you’d expect to see things stop reaching you in about a week,” said Ryan Clumpner, a local independent political consultant.

That’s because campaigns typically keep a close eye on who’s voted and who hasn’t. They buy updated database information from the registrar of voters, which is required to cough up data about voters as long as “it is for for election, scholarly, journalistic, political and/or governmental purposes,” said Michael Vu, the county’s registrar of voters.

Some campaigns may lag a bit in paying for and getting data about who’s voted. But that can cost them if they end up sending out a lot of mailers to people who’ve already cast ballots.

The risk of that happening appears to be dwindling, said Clumpner. “More and more people are voting by mail, but they’re voting later,” he said, “so the number of people available for us to remove is lower and lower.”

What about campaign text messages? They should stop too once campaigns get updated lists of who’s voted. You can also reply with “stop” to a political text message and that should take you off that campaign’s texting list, Clumpner said.

By the way, there is likely a live person at the other end of a campaign text message and not a robot pretending to be, say, “Art T, a volunteer for yes on 8” or “Margaret, a MoveOn volunteer.”

“Legally, you are not supposed to be sending mass text messages,” he said. “If people are doing it right, there’s a real person sitting there sending messages. In theory, they should be able to respond to you.

What about those campaign ads on social media services like Facebook? They may keep haunting your feeds even if you vote, depending on whether a campaign has spent money to link your voting record to your social media account.

Political types are still figuring out whether social media ads are worthwhile, Clumpner said. “You get a lot of eyeballs on your message that way, but people who are on Facebook or Instagram are accustomed to scrolling through vast quantities of information. The larger question is whether it’s effective at persuading or mobilizing anyone.”

One thing is clear: If you interact with an online campaign ad — by, say, complaining in the comments about how you’re sick and tired of online campaign ads — you’ll see more. That’s because you interacted with it, a sign that you’re interested in these kind of ads. Clumpner suggests clicking on “hide this ad” instead.

As for other ways of reaching voters, Clumpner said political robo-calls are rarely used anymore. Texts, meanwhile, were so overused during this year’s primary campaign that they have lost effectiveness, he said.

What’s next for campaign ads? Drones that wave “vote-for-me, the-other-guy-stinks” fliers outside your bedroom window? Uh-oh. Please tell me no political consultants are reading this. Shh, everybody! Don’t give them any ideas.

What do you think?
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