We’ve all experienced those sales phone calls that never fail to interrupt dinner. Consumers wishing to put a stop to such calls place their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call List.
However, what some may not know is that the Do Not Call List does not stop all unsolicited calls. According to donotcall.gov, the list merely gives you an “opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls you receive.” The site goes on to explain:
Because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls.
That means if a political party or group gets your phone number, you may still receive their phone calls whether you want them or not.
I turned to the Travis County Tax Assessor’s Office hoping for an explanation. According to spokesperson Tiffany Seward, the Tax Assessor’s Office only maintains voters’ information that is public. Seward says that information – your full name and address – is easily available from your voter registration card.
When a political party, candidate, or other member of the common population requests that information, the Tax Assessor’s Office is required to release it. Voters’ names and addresses are also “released” to the general public on the Tax Assessor’s Office’s website here.
If you do not want your information visible on that site, you can click here to fill out a Web suppression form, though Seward says that does not stop your public information from being released by the Tax Assessor’s Office if someone submits a public information request for it. It should also be noted that law enforcement officers can call 512-854-9473 to request additional suppression of their information.
So where do phone numbers come into the mix of publicly available information? Since it’s apparently not from your voter registration card, though a common voter registration application does include an optional field for your telephone number, I decided to ask the political parties themselves how they get voters' phone numbers.
“It's a common practice and service used by political parties, campaigns and on a much larger and more frequent scale, by private business. It's just one of many tools campaigns use to contact voters,” Kirsten Gray, the communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, said in an email.
Both parties also said they get phone numbers from those who voluntarily give them, as well as when voters participate in party-sponsored events.
So your best bet? Caller I.D.
Do you have an I Wonder question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.