Sunday, October 31, 2004

Autopilot guides push
to get out vote
with phone calls

In Hawaii today someone is going to say: "Honey, come quick, the President is calling!"

Be it President Bush or former president Bill Clinton, one or both will likely call you today with a recorded message.

The calls are part of a sophisticated telemarketing campaign popular in the mainland and spreading through Hawaii like a well-greased telephone tree rumor.

The rich Democratic baritone voice of Sen. Dan Inouye is getting a workout for both John Kerry, the candidate for president, and most of the Democratic members of the state House and Senate.

On the Republican side, the phone calls have been climbing up the political hierarchy. First Brennon Morioka, the party chairman, called to remind Republicans to request an absentee ballot.

Then Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona called to remind GOP voters to mail in their absentee ballot and to vote to selected GOP candidates.

That was followed up by a call from Gov. Linda Lingle extolling the virtues of Bush and various GOP House and Senate candidates.

Today the GOP jumps to the top tier as Bush's call is pumped out to thousands of phones by Feather Larson & Synhorst Telemarketing, a firm that has many GOP national organizations on its client lists.

The Democrats won't say who is doing their telemarketing.

Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff, said the Democratic calls are going to each of the 51 House districts.

"It is one more way to use technology to get out the vote," Sabas said.

Although charities, pollsters and political campaigns have been exempted from the national "Do Not Call" lists, Sabas says the Inouye campaign has been getting good response and no one has called in to complain about the canned pitches.

"A lot of the feedback has been very positive. Some people have called the campaign to say they are returning the senator's call, others call to say they just voted.

"Last weekend on the Big Island, we were doing calls for local candidates and a lot of the people thanked him for the call," Sabas said.

Both Sabas and Morioka agree that political telemarketing, also called "robocalling," is somewhat effective and very cheap.

Sabas put the cost at less than 15 cent a call, while Morioka calculated to cost around 5.5 to 7.5 cents per call.

"So far the response has been very positive," reports Morioka, adding that "it has become a quick and effective way to get out a fast message."

The calls are done with the candidate or the speaker recording a pitch over the phone to the company on the mainland.

Then either the client, such as the GOP, provides the company with a list of telephone numbers, or for an extra fee the company will find the numbers of people to call.

The numbers can be filtered a number of ways, by registered voter, by voters who voted absentee, by voters with various ethnic last names, such as Japanese or Filipino, and also by political district.

Because the cost per call is so inexpensive, some small House and Senate campaigns are using the telemarketing machinery to do "get out the vote" work.

For instance, supporters of Sen. Melodie Aduja used an automated "get out the vote" campaign to hustle up votes in her campaign in Windward Oahu. The campaign, however, wasn't successful and Aduja still lost her primary election.

But others, such as Duke Bainum, who is running for Honolulu mayor, are considering using the telemarketing plan for last-minute calls.

Andy Winer, Bainum's campaign coordinator, said the phone calls from Bainum would be to encourage voting.

"You can do it with a live phone bank and staff it with campaign volunteers or you can use a recorded message from the candidate or another respected individual," Winer explained.

"It is just a last minute 'get out the vote' campaign, it is no more complicated than that," Winer said.

Kerry-Edwards campaign
Bush-Cheney campaign


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com