It’s that time of year guys, when every politician under the sun has a robot call your house at prime eating time to encourage you to vote, or ask for money, or poll your feelings on Soccer Mom v Rotting Squash. At least this has been the case for many people in our fine nation of fifty states. But Arkansas likes to be different, and 35 years ago the state passed a law specifically forbidding political robocalls. Now a Federal court has declared the law unconstitutional.
The law, which I personally fell didn’t go far enough, expressly forbid robocalls “in connection with a political campaign.” That’s what got Arkansas lawmakers in hot water when a Virginia robocall company, Conquest Communications Group, challenged the law on the grounds that it hurt its ability to do its job in the state.
Arkansas insisted the law was to protect the privacy of Arkansas citizens and stop unwanted intrusions. Judge Leon Holms might have agreed with the state, but because the law expressly forbid robocalls for politics, and not robocalls in general, he agreed with me: the law didn’t go far enough.
If the interests of privacy and safety warrant restriction of automated calls made for a commercial purpose or in connection with a political campaign, they also warrant restriction of other types of automated calls. The statute is underinclusive.
If you’re going to ban robocalls then by golly you better ban all of them!
With political robocalls now protected under the First Amendment—until a law outright bans them and is challenged in another federal court—the people of Arkansas can rest easy. No, no one is calling you with an emergency at dinner time. It’s just the United Federation of Fans of Democracy calling to see if you’d like to donate this year.