Social Science

Social media is a fact of life for students today that can have good and bad outcomes, both of which were seen after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. (Photo by Julie Schoening, the Parent’s Union/Creative Commons)

The president sent me a text the other day.

Not the emergency test text that he sent to everyone. This text was just for me.

It said:

“Hi Andrew. This is is Pres. Trump: Arizona’s 10/20 roster shows that YOUR BALLOT HAS NOT BEEN SUBMITTED yet. Learn more here: (link)”

I know this was not a fake text because of the use of capital letters.

If that wasn’t enough, he sent me another a few days later:

“Pres Trump: Things are getting better in AZ, we can’t go back. We need Republicans to win. Watch ad NOW: (link)”

This time I thought I’d respond:

“Thank you Mr. President. Can you be more specific?”

I didn’t hear back. But the president is a busy man these days, you know, fighting the migrant invasion, and such.

The president wasn’t the only campaigner to text me in recent days. There was this one from a Democratic volunteer:

“Hi Andrew! I’m Candace with AZ Democrats. Voting has started in Pinal County and it looks like you haven’t voted. Many of your neighbors have already voted for Kyrsten Sinema. Will you join and go vote this week?”

And then there was this one:

“Hi Sherry, I’m Cherie, a volunteer with January Contreras for AZ Attorney General. She’s a public servant & seasoned prosecutor with a record of protecting families from crime and corruption. Early voting has begun for this important Nov. 6 election. Will you be a voter for January?”

Sherry is my wife. She’s a registered Republican.

I’m an electoral purist. Because I choose to vote on election day rather than early or by mail, I get punished by all the last-minute campaigning.

All voter registration material is public record, so the politicians know I haven’t voted yet, and they flood my mailbox and screen door with campaign material as well as texts to my phone in the days before the election.

Campaigning takes many forms, it’s not just signs in yards and TV and radio ads, but it has gotten much more personal with text messages, often identifying the recipient by name.

Registered voters give up their information, like first and last name, physical address and political affiliation. Phone numbers are optional, which I guess I unwittingly gave out.

Campaigns cannot retrieve dates of birth, Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers from voter registration forms. By law, information gathered cannot be used for anything but political purposes, meaning they can’t try to sell you something. Although, that is actually what they are trying to do.

Personally, I prefer the salesman, because if I purchase their product and it doesn’t work, I can at least return it.

I may be a registered Democrat, but I’m really an independent. My wife and I intentionally register in separate parties, not because we are a mixed marriage politically, but so we as a couple have at least one vote in each primary.

I guess my wife is more savvy than I. She must have used my cellphone number on her registration form so I get all the campaign texts intended for her.

Clever.

Since I didn’t vote early or by mail, many campaigns figure I may be undecided. That would explain the texts coming from both parties.

As with the social nature of our new communications world, the texts come from an actual person. And in many cases they will engage you if you so desire. And that is by design.

Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, an associate professor at Loyola University Chicago, is a Democratic campaign volunteer. She wrote about the new role of “text bank” campaigning.

She says she texts people to encourage them to register to vote, to early-vote, to verify their number and to identify supporters of her candidate. She also has identified voters who need a ride to the polls and connected them to transportation options.

“The truth is, grassroots campaign outreach is a necessity right now,” she said.

She also said those who text-bank often get angry or crude responses to initial texts.

“But when we respond as a human being, the person on the other end often apologizes — “I thought you were a bot!” No, we aren’t bots,” she said. “We’re volunteers and we’d love to talk to you about the issues, and our candidate’s record and plans. We probably have information you can’t find on campaign websites, and we actually want to hear from you about your concerns. Since grassroots campaigns like volunteers to engage their own communities, you might even know the person who is texting you personally.”

I’m sure President Trump sent the same text to all registered voters in the state who haven’t yet voted. That would explain why he didn’t respond to my reply.

Otherwise, I might think he was mad at me.

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You can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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