KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Some 10,000 Knox County voters received a text message from the Knox County Democratic Party, asking whether they planned to vote.
Erin Hatfield received one of those messages Wednesday night, before election day. It read, "Hey Erin! This is Emily with the Knox County Democratic Party. Your vote really matters so I was wondering if you were planning on voting tomorrow, August 2nd, in the county and general and state and federal primary?"
Hatfield responded and said she intended to vote. Hatfield said Emily replied "Awesome!" and thanked her.
Emily Gregg, the same Emily in the text messages, spoke with WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara on Thursday afternoon. She said the text messages are a new strategy called 'peer to peer messaging' and the purpose is to drive people to the polls.
Gregg said, "For a lot of people, they work late hours, it's hard for us to communicate with them by phone or knock on their door, but almost everybody receives texts."
The reaction from voters was varied. Gregg said some were not pleased to hear from the Democratic Party and identified themselves as President Donald Trump supporters, while others expressed appreciation over receiving information about election day and polling locations.
Gregg said the intention is not to sway voters, rather to inform them when polls open, and where to vote.
Some voters were concerned about how the Knox County Democratic Party got a hold of their personal cell phone numbers. Gregg said whatever number a voter lists on their voter registration is the number they use. It's not considered solicitation because Gregg said they're providing a public service. She said anyone who felt uncomfortable receiving the message was removed from their list.
Cliff Rodgers, the Administrator of Elections for the Knox County Election Commission, said it provides a voter history disk that can contain information on voters including an address, a phone number, party affiliation, and voting history.
"What they get from our office is anything anyone else can get by signing a form saying it will only be used for political use only," Rodgers said. He added that the information can only be used for political purposes and cannot be sold to companies that will use the information for solicitation.
The Knox County Republican Party said it did not use robocalls or texting systems to reach voters.
"The robocalls and the texting systems tend to irritate people and drive them away from the message," said Buddy Burkhardt.
He told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara that the republican party and candidates were relying on Facebook and Twitter to reach voters. "I have gotten several phone calls today, 'Why are these people sending text messages? It just pisses me off!' We at Knox Co GOP are not doing it. If I have anything to do with it, we will never do it," he said.
Gregg said the Knox County Democratic Party send text messages to 10,000 people.