A Political “Do Not Call” List
Dean Karlan has just published a cool op-ed in the Financial Times making the case for voting-commitment contracts.
(Disclosure and shameless plug: Dean and I are both co-founders of stickK.com, the free commitment service where anyone can make a binding commitment to vote on November 4th.) As Dean describes:
StickK can verify (using publicly available data) whether people fulfill their commitment to vote. If they do not, StickK e-mails their friends or charges their credit card as punishment for failure. If money, individuals choose where the money gets sent; but most choose to send it to a charity (chosen by stickK, so the individual gets no specific pleasure from knowing where the money goes), or even harsher, to an “anti charity,” a politically polarizing charity such as the Bill Clinton Presidential Library or the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
When Dean first pitched the idea, I though it was neat but figured there wouldn’t be much demand. The hard-core voters don’t need a commitment contract to help them vote; and the hard-core nonvoters don’t want help in the first place.
I thought the commitment contracts would only be attractive to the smaller set of people who want to vote, but know they will have trouble getting around to pulling the lever when election day actually comes.
But Dean has now convinced me that there are two good reasons for hard-core voters to sign commitment contracts: Committing will both a) reduce the amount you are hassled and b) enrich the political party that you support. Dean explains:
How can this solve the problem of organizations and campaigns relentlessly calling homes to get people to vote?
Imagine all agreed to honor a “do not call those who have made commitments” list. Organizations would love this: they would know that these are individuals truly committed to voting, so any phone call or visit to them is wasted money. People would love it: fewer harassing phone calls and doorbell rings.
And what helps you is likely to help your candidates as well.
Making a credible commitment to vote is like making a contribution to the candidate for whom you intend to vote.
Those annoying cards and letters that you don’t need eat up the real resources of the candidates. Increasingly, candidates can predict how you are going to vote. After you sign a commitment contract, these candidates don’t need to waste money and time making sure that you’re going to the polls; they can spend that money on those who are still at risk of not showing up (or voting for the wrong candidate).
Of course, this still needs a bit more saliency among voters to really take off. But if a large enough percentage of voters signed these contracts, even some of the hard-core nonvoters might change their minds — if only to avoid the concentrated pestering that will be directed at them.
At a time when many of us are deluged with repetitive and unwanted political telemarketing calls, anything that emulates a “do not call” list is worth considering.