AURORA | There may soon may be a better way to avoid being bombarded with campaign emails, phone calls and doorbell rings — after you’ve returned your ballot.
A new product, appropriately called I Already Voted, is testing exclusively in Aurora this election cycle.
Jon Haubert, founder of Colorado-based H.B. Legacy Media Company, started a non-profit organization that creates a do-not-call list of sorts that allows voters to submit their name once they’ve cast a ballot during an election. The goal is to send a signal to campaigns that they don’t need to put anymore effort into that list of people who have done their civic duty and returned a ballot.
“Consumers have money to spend and telemarketers have products to sell — that’s why they contact you. Elections are no different. Voters hold valuable votes and campaigns have a candidate or issue to sell. And that’s why they call, email, mail, knock at your door and overtake television and radio airwaves during most elections,” Haubert said in announcing the product earlier this week. “Unfortunately, the National Do Not Call Registry does not apply to candidates or campaigns. The potential to pester and ultimately turn voters off from elections could have dire consequences on our democracy. Angst appears at an all-time high and we’re focused on trying to find solutions.”
The organization chose Aurora to test the product because of the number of city council candidates on the ballot. There are 20 for five seats. The diversity and having the third-largest population in the state were also factors, Haubert said.
“Aurora City Council may not be of major election in the grand scheme of things, but it allows us to test out this technology,” he added.
Municipal elections don’t typically draw a large voter turnout. Last year, during the presidential election, nearly three-quarters of Arapahoe County and Adams County registered voters returned ballots. The year before, which wasn’t dominated by major state and national races, it was just 30 percent in each of the counties that include Aurora voters.
The I Already Voted website works like this: After returning a ballot, voters can submit their name, address and date of birth to ialreadyvoted.org. A list is then available to campaigns so that they can focus more closely on people who have yet to turn in their ballots.
There aren’t laws or rules preventing campaigns from contacting people after they’ve submitted to the list, but it’s Haubert’s hope that with more information about which voters to focus on, campaigns will naturally turn to voters who are still undecided and abandoned marketing efforts such as phone calls and in-person canvassing to those who return a ballot before election day.
“We’re slightly in uncharted waters,” Haubert said. “Hopefully we’ll learn every single time we do this.”
Seth Masket, professor of American politics at the University of Denver, said he hasn’t seen or heard of a similar effort, but it makes sense, particularly for campaigns.
“Voters are interested in not being annoyed,” he said.
But there isn’t any data that points to voters switching their vote because they’re annoyed with calls or literature. And it’s unlikely they end up not voting either, Masket said. Campaigns tend to target voters who have a history of casting a ballot.
The information I Already Voted would be providing to campaigns is generally information they probably already have access to, as ballot returns are easy information to get from the county clerk and recorder’s office.
But the list may expedite the process.
“My impression is this is just doing something campaigns are already doing,” Masket said. “But it may be more up-to-date information. Voters can enter their information quicker than the county can get the information to the campaigns.”
There’s no way to verify that a voter has in fact voted, Haubert acknowledged. It would take cross-referencing with ballot returns. And that would take a few days. But the data could also signal to government officials whether there was a problem with ballot delivery or returns.
“Say a group of 50 voters say they’ve already voted (on our website), but we’re able to verify the county didn’t receive their ballot. The county could find out what happened and fix that,” Haubert said.
The organization hopes to have a clearer idea of how to move on forward after the election.
“We want to learn how the system works and refine it and improve it because next year will be a really big year in politics,” Haubert said.