Countless Americans received those automated political calls before the Nov. 7 election. For many on the receiving end, the calls were irritating nuisances.
Shortly after the ballots had been counted, Missouri's attorney general, in a populist move, urged legislators to pass a law next year that would add the automated calls to the state's No Call List. Currently, 2.3 million Missourians have requested protection from unwanted calls by having their phone numbers added to the list.
Nixon also wants telemarketing calls to cell phones and junk faxes to be banned. Previous attempts in 2004 and this year cleared the Missouri Senate but never got out of a House committee.
Missourians angered by annoying phone calls will surely support Jay Nixon's legislative proposals. But there are a few things they ought to take into consideration.
One is that political speech has, at the federal level, enjoyed considerable protection. The question of whether states can ban political calls would likely result in judicial review.
Another is the interruption in service caused by any automated calls. Telephone customers are, in many cases, prevented from using their phones, even in an emergency, while the automated calls are in progress.
But perhaps the more pressing issue is the effectiveness -- or lack thereof -- of the existing No Call List. A good many of those 2.3 million Missourians who don't want unwelcome phone calls are still receiving them. Abuses of the No Call List are growing more and more blatant. And it's difficult for Missourians to report many of these illegal calls, because the abusers know how to mask the names and numbers registered by such phone services as Caller ID.
The responsibility of enforcing the No Call List falls to the attorney general's office. Before banning more calls, let's stop the calls already covered by the No Call List.