'Tis the season of annoying political calls

From this creaky old chair in my second floor office, I can easily think of two jobs that I wouldn't be particularly interested in doing.

The first is backing up a semi. Because our loading dock is directly beneath my office, I watch this small drama occur several times each day as the trucks deliver newsprint and ink. The good drivers make it look easy; I've watched with amusement as the bad ones have taken out street signs.

The second tough job? The people who make political calls to my phone. Especially my cell phone. I'm never very nice to them, and while I do feel a pang of guilt because of that, overall I just wish they'd leave me alone. In fact, if there's any usefulness whatsoever to the calls, it's that they make me less inclined to vote for the candidates who invade my privacy because they do not think me capable of seeking out the necessary information to vote knowledgeably.

I always ask the callers who aren't recordings how they got my number, and most stumble for a reply ... it's on a list they were given to call and read their script, they end up saying.

But this week one caller, an Obama campaign volunteer calling from a local number, was more helpful. When I told him to take my phone number out of their database, he kindly agreed before I hung up.

Then, to my surprise, he called back to assure me the task was done and to provide insight into where it may have come from. The list came from voter registration information, he said, which is public record and available to any candidate.

So stunned was I by his gesture that I found myself doing something I would previously have thought unthinkable " I thanked this person who had interrupted me in the middle of deadline hour.

Later, I checked this out a little further and discovered that I had indeed included my phone number on my voter registration. I could take it off if I so choose, said Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, but that's no guarantee the calls would stop.

"Once you're in one of these databases, you don't get out," he said, referring to the voter lists political parties have already obtained.

Glover said his office likes to have phone numbers so they can call voters if there's a problem with their registration.

Another option is to go the Nevada Secretary of State's Web site, where you can view your registration information and check a "please don't call" box. Campaigns aren't by law required to comply with the "don't call" list, so the emphasis is definitely on the word "please."

It appeared to me that I had already checked the box to be on the list, so obviously some campaigns aren't paying attention. Still, a very helpful person at the Secretary of State's office said she's heard from others that they've received fewer calls after signing up for the list.

If you want to get on the list, visit the Secretary of State's Web site at https://nvsos.gov/ and click on "election center." If you don't have Internet access, you might try calling the Secretary of State's Office, but one caution " this is a very busy time in the office and they may not be able to process your request quickly.

At the Secretary of State's Web site, you can also find a form to fill out that would have your number and address withheld from the public.

Glover said he believes campaigns are also getting phone numbers from places other than voter registrations. Those lists are available for purchase from many sources, whether it's magazine subscriptions or credit cards.

Apparently, not everyone disdains these political calls as much as I do, however. When I asked the Obama guy who called me how many people get angry when he calls, he said, "surprisingly, not many."

And Glover said they don't bother him, either.

"You find them useful?," I asked incredulously.

That prompted a chuckle that could only be taken as a definite no.

"I find them somewhat amusing," he clarified.

And sometimes they're a source of humor for a different reason, he said, as he recalled one voter " an 87-year-old woman " who told him how excited she was to have talked to President Bush on the phone, not realizing it was a recording.

Now that's a conversation I'd love to hear.

Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at bginter@nevadaappeal.com


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