Senate backs new limits on ‘robocalls’

Missourians on the state’s do-not-call list could see fewer automated calls under legislation passed Thursday in the state Senate.

The measure, backed by senators in a 32-0 vote, generally would forbid automated calls unless a person has consented to receiving them, but still would allow the calls, known as “robocalls” to be made on behalf of political campaigns or candidates. Groups that make political robocalls would have to register with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Sponsoring Sen. Scott Rupp said automated political calls can’t be banned because that would interfere with a candidate’s First Amendment right to free speech. Under his legislation, those calls would have to include a statement saying who paid for the calls, similar to the statement at the end of political television ads.

Rupp, R-Wentzville, said that type of statement is important because some campaigns can use robocalls to deceive voters rather than promote a candidate. He said his he’s received complaints in the past about robocalls made in support of his candidacy that he did not actually endorse. And he said some campaigns will make robocalls in support of their rival at inconvenient times — such as during dinner hour or the middle of the night — in hopes of ginning up voter anger directed at the rival candidate.

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