Alabama will now require automated political calls, including those for survey and opinion research purposes, to disclose their sponsors. On May 15, S.B. 11 was sent to the Governor's office for certain signature into law.
MRA partnered again with the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) to oppose this bill, as we managed to do with a similar bill in Alabama in 2011, S.B. 96. While we did manage to convince the legislature to drop a provision that would have applied the sponsorship disclosure to ALL political survey and opinion research calls, we were unable to dissaude them from applying the disclosure rules to automated calls.
S.B. 11 amends Section 17-5-16 of the Alabama Code to make it "unlawful for any automated or pre-recorded communication initiated, conducted, or transmitted through an automated telephone dialing service to be conducted without providing clear notice at the ending of the phone call that the communication was a paid political advertisement and clearly identifying the person, nonprofit corporation, entity, principal campaign committee, or political action committee that paid for such communication." It will also be unlawful "to knowingly misrepresent" in such calls "the identification of the person, nonprofit corporation, entity, principal campaign committee, or political action committee that paid for such communication."
The Attorney General will be tasked with investigating and enforcing violations of this new law. Violators "shall be guilty upon conviction of a Class A misdemeanor as provided in Section 17-17-35(a)."
Researchers conducting automated telephone surveys of Alabama residents should be mindful of this new law, which will come into force on August 1, 2012.