Isn’t it funny to think back to “simpler times”? Some might say things were better back then. Remember the Michael Douglas film Falling Down, in which the ills of society pushed a regular Joe over the edge? His circa-1993 griefs seem almost laughable compared to everything we ingest from the nightly news almost 30 years later. What passed for controversial or explicit back then is tame in 2020. Similarly, there is plenty of discourse on whether the ’95 Chicago Bulls would beat the ’16 Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series or whether McDonalds fries were better when we were kids. We also used to think politics were pretty uncivil back then. Like everything else, we had no idea what was to come.
In this article, we cover:
- The evolution of society, sports, and fries.
- The $10 million cost of attempting to subvert a local election with robocalls.
- How robocalls played a part in the presidential election.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined a San Diego telemarketer nearly $10 million recently for a little postmodern political muckraking. Marketing Support Systems earned the punishment by placing more than 47,000 robocalls over a two-day period. These, however, weren’t your average robocalls. Back on May 30 and 31, 2018, these robocalls pushed false allegations against a candidate for California State Assembly — allegations that had been thrown out in court. The political candidate was accused of kissing a woman against her will, a claim that was later found to be a false report. The would-be politician ended up losing his campaign.
The robocalls repeated the false claim just a week before the primary election — surely detrimental to the campaign. Marketing Support System went as far as spoofing the caller ID on the calls as that of a telemarketing competitor. That competitor ended up dealing with angry complaints and a cease-and-desist letter from the candidate.
Dirty dealings indeed.
This shady business violated the Truth in Caller ID Act for spoofing with the intent to defraud. There can be no doubt that its actions were extremely damaging to the candidate’s campaign and political career, especially when you consider its scope. Misinformation circulated to 47,610 potential voters days before a local primary election is an extraordinary amount at that scale. Can you name the last person you voted for in the state assembly primary? Did you even vote?
Robocalls in the Lead-up to the Presidential Election
Now transpose that situation to a more recent, much larger scale election. Waves of robocalls and texts encouraging voters to “stay safe and stay home” for the Nov. 4 election hit people’s devices as early as last summer. Have a listen to an actual call for yourself. With the pandemic raging, calls like these pray upon the fears of the voting public.
Further, voters in Flint, Michigan, received devious calls of their own the morning of the Tuesday election warning of long lines at the polls. These calls encouraged voters to wait until Wednesday to cast their ballots, after the deadline to vote. Residents of nearby Dearborn were targeted as well. The calls warned of “ballot sensor” malfunctions. Again, confidence in voting systems was being shaken when no such problems were being reported.
And it matters.
Michigan turned out to be a key battleground state in the presidential election. According to The Associated Press, President-elect Joe Biden won the state by just over 150,000 votes. In Genesee County, home of Flint, President-elect Biden won by just over 20,000 votes.
No matter which side of the aisle you sit, robocalls encouraging voters to miss their opportunity to vote is bad.
Could it be that these attempts at voter suppression made President-elect Biden’s victory appear narrower than it would have been otherwise? Perhaps it cost President Donald Trump crucial votes in that county. In any election, votes for the losing candidate matter too. They show the winner whether he or she needs to adjust policy to please more constituents going forward.
As American society becomes more divided, athletes more amazing, and french fries (perhaps) less tasty, efforts to subvert political norms have become more sophisticated too. No matter whether or not you think Lebron could beat Jordan — or which candidate you support — the fact remains that some hypotheticals cannot be answered, and “the most secure” election in American history could still do without malicious robocalling campaigns. As always, YouMail can help restore your faith in those ringing your phone.
Simpler times, these are not.