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County clerk has strategy to reduce robocalls

How is it that being on the “Do Not Call” list does not protect me from the constant barrage of political phone calls? Wasn’t the list the government’s idea? Are political phone calls any less annoying than telemarketers? No! Please tell me if by adding phone numbers to the “Do Not Call” list we actually just gave politicians all possible numbers by which to bug us. Signed, Please Do Not Leave A Message

Action Line feels your pain. So does Mrs. Action Line.

On Thursday alone, the message machine had no less than six prerecorded messages of hateful, slanderous and desperate rhetoric.

All of these unreasonable utterances were dispatched to the digital dustbin directly. But deleting won’t stop them. Here’s why.

In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission created the National Do Not Call Registry to thwart pesky telemarketers. In the last nine years, the registry has been effective in stopping most unwanted dinner-time hucksterism.

However, the law has loopholes the size of the Walmart parking lot. For example, it exempts pollsters, nonprofits, businesses with whom you have a previous relationship and, of course, politicians.

So being on the registry – sign up at donotcall.gov – will stop someone who wants your money, but not someone who wants your vote.

Being on the registry won’t increase robocalls to your home. Most politicians get your phone number from a much better source: voter-registration records.

When you register to vote, you include your name, address and party affiliation. Most people also include their phone number, and voter registration is a public record available to all.

And yet “phone numbers are totally optional when registering to vote,” says our friend La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker.

If you don’t include your phone number on voter registration, you will greatly reduce your chances of being on a robocall list.

“I encourage people to take off their phone number,” Tiffany said. (Wow! That’s refreshing to hear.)

The clerk’s office will remove your phone number from the records gladly. All you have to do is email from www.co.laplata.co.us/node/711 or call 382-6820.

But hold off for 11 days, please.

The county clerk’s office is swamped with election stuff. Plus, purging your phone number now won’t do any good for the current election – the robocallers already have the database.

Now if we could only stop those stupid oversize postcards funded by super PACs.

Why are the mail-in ballot envelopes different from county to county? Montezuma County requires a signature on the back of the envelope while La Plata County requires the signature under a flap that one has to lick to seal. Is this a voter privacy issue or, heaven forbid, a voter-suppression tactic? – Rick Lane

These are scary times, but there is no ballot boogeyman.

All ballot envelopes require a signature of some sort, but some La Plata Countians have complained about their John Hancock being displayed outside an envelope.

Again, we turn to our unflappable County Clerk, Tiffany Lee Parker. “About 50 percent of the counties in Colorado use the privacy flap,” she said. “We tested it in the primaries this year, and the voters really liked it.”

When a signature is not exposed, it helps keep confidence in the electoral process, she explained.

If you tore off that little secrecy flap on the back of the envelope before reading the instructions, as Action Line did brashly a couple of weeks ago, it’s no big deal.

“The flap just gives people an option to hide their signature. But it’s not a required for the ballot to be accepted,” Tiffany said.

Phew! We don’t want any flippant flak about fleeting flaps. This election has fledged enough flagrant, flawed flimflam from flibbertigibbets!

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you explain why trick-or-treaters never show you a trick but always get a treat.

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