Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's time for a political "Do Not Mail" list

In the run-up to California's election on June 3rd (primary races and two initiatives) my mailbox was deluged by propaganda. Each and every day, the postal carrier would drop a few pieces of brightly colored mail from candidates, interest groups, and deceptive front groups into my mailbox. And each and every day I would put the pieces on a stack for recycling without even looking at them.

Now, in mid-October, the trickle of mailers for the November election has started to become a torrent.

I don't trust the mailers and prefer to do my own research: I read commentary in newspapers, on blogs, check out the endorsements from newspapers and interest groups, and follow my own ideology. Many others, no doubt, find mailers to be just as useless.

So how about a political "Do Not Mail" list? Voters could submit their name and address (and phone number) to the Secretary of State office, and mailing companies would be required to consult the list when preparing their mailings. Or it could be run by the political parties — sort of a "don't waste your money on me" list. Besides keeping my mailbox less cluttered, it could save money for the campaigns and let them spend their limited funds on more effective approaches (like social networking). Although there is a danger that the presence of a list would cause more people to tune out politics, I doubt that the best way to get people to pay attention is through unsolicited mailers.

"Do Not Mail" lists are under discussion in handful of state legislatures and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are also thinking about creating a national list. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service has detailed report on the subject, including discussion of the effect of direct marketing on the U.S. Postal Service's revenue and on the number of jobs in the direct mail industry.

Random link from the archive: Sponge or Vegetable? The Ridged Gourd


jennconspiracy said...

I totally agree - as a registered voter, I do not need nor want to receive informational mailings or solicitations at all. I can find all the information online - I don't want paper in my box.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about this a lot this election.

One thing that has really been bothering me is the huge pamphlets that we get from the state and the city. By my measurement, I have received 1.6 pounds of mail from the government (the ballot books) and approximately 10-12 ounces of mail from political campaigns.

Granted the mail that is from the state is on recycled paper, but the energy expended to get that info to every voter is high.

I would love to opt out of the ballot books, as I access all that information on-line.

Requiring that political campaigns bump their data files against a national do-not-mail list is an ok thing for large campaigns that have the resources. They often are already employing data folks and data houses and databases that can help them do a data bump to that level.

But many campaigns in this country get a voter file from their county (which is public information), print out labels, and mail out the mail pieces themselves or spend every resource they have getting the mail out and the cost to do a data bump would be prohibitive.

Making a sweeping declaration that the onus for that is on campaigns would continue to squeeze the little guy out of politics and focus on the big guys because they can afford such data processing.

I think that if this were to work, the onus would have to be on the county clerks to take responsibility for flagging voters as do-not-mail.

The best thing you can do at this point is to apply for permanent absentee status and vote early. Most large campaigns stop mailing a voter once he/she has voted. They don't want to pay for you to get a mail piece if your ballot has been turned it.

As an aside, some campaigns I know are now bumping their phone files against the national do not call list, but that's pretty rare -- probably the 5% largest campaigns in the country.