Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

Summary: Here we have, the Florida Dems calling Ma and Pa Florida asking them "please to go" to their polling place.


Note from David about this post:

I'm not happy about this post.

After spending a year writing How To Save Jobs, I've become hyper-sensitive to the problem America has with outsourcing jobs to other nations.

During my research, I also discovered astonishing instances where the U.S. government effectively encouraged outsourcing, and even paid workers outside the U.S. to learn skills that then made them competitive with U.S. workers.

So, when I got the call documented below, I assumed (without the ability to verify) that it came from a foreign call center. This was an assumption based solely on the caller's accent and was probably assuming too much based on the accent.

We have many fellow Americans who've moved to the United States and who retain accents from their homelands. Many of these people are very active politically and it wasn't fair to discount the possibility that a local volunteer was calling, merely based on his accent.

I'm still weirded out by the possibility that the Dems are outsourcing this work, but after sleeping on it it overnight and reading a few reader comments, I felt that the post seemed to have a tinge of intolerance for people with accents.

It's an impression I don't want to give, I've done a lot of work and analysis on the U.S. immigration issue, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

I should also note that I respect the need and desire for workers in foreign lands to have jobs and outsourcing is a huge opportunity for them. It's just that with our current job situation, I feel that America needs to do all it can to retain and encourage employment here, instead.

I am leaving the original post here as a record of what was originally written, but I apologize if anyone got the wrong impression.

The original post begins here.

This one's going to be short and sweet.

As I mentioned last week, here in Central Florida, we've been assaulted by a never-ending stream of robocalls.

Today is Election Day and we just checked our voice mail messages. I'm telling you this because since the message was left on voice mail, it's less likely to have been a robocall and more likely to have been an actual human calling.

The call went like this:

"Hello, this is Joe."

He did not exactly sound like a "Joe". The man had a thick, thick Indian accent.

"I need every Democrat to go vote today. Please to go to your polling place."

Now, you need to understand that this is Florida, where we live below the Bible Belt. Wal-Mart workers wish you a "blessed day" and physicians try to pitch you on their churches. This part of Florida isn't the most xenophobic place in America, but it's not the most open-minded either.

And here we have, the Florida Dems calling Ma and Pa Florida asking them "please to go" to their polling place.

Now, certainly, it's possible that they had a local volunteer with a thick Indian accent, but I'm kind of doubting it. What this sounded like was a call center based in India making dials on behalf of the Dems.

I'm also not saying the Republicans wouldn't make such a stupid move in an economy desperate for jobs, but, well, the Republicans would never make this sort of stupid move. Other stupid moves, yes, but outsourcing election calls to India?

I'm not telling you this because I support one party or the other, but because, as a proponent of American jobs, I'm astonished.

Wow. Just, frickin' wow.

See also: The Democrats deserve to lose, but do the Republicans deserve to win?

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software, Outsourcing, IT Employment


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Why are you freaking out ?

    Heck, every product including Election flag is made in China, clothes are coming from Philippines/Vietnam, Meat is imported from South Korea, Oil is imported from Middle East, why not outsource to India. Every iPhone is made in China, Every Laptop is made in China, Every memory chip is made in Taiwan, Battery is coming from China/Japan/Taiwan. Why are you freaking out only for India...? I don't see a issue here.
  • Jumping to conclusions, there - eh?

    You have absolutely no evidence that the call was out-sourced, and yet you jump to that conclusion. I thought that America was the 'melting pot' that accepted people from around the world.... including people from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

    The call could have come from anywhere in the US.

    "Just, frickin? wow"
  • RE: Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

    Oh My, David. Your just dropped your non-biased pants, and the whole world just saw your racism hanging loose.
    "Just, frickin wow"
    Thick Indian accent ,eh ? Have you any idea just how many accents Americans speak in ? You "found" a message mail on your machine ? How convenient. And I would be very happy if you would "please to go" somewhere and just shut the "frickin" up. About time you had some quality English (and etiquette) lessons, my friend. Oh, and while you are at it, take a short course in honesty too.
    • RE: Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

      @Sushruth Should David take a lesson on etiquette?---Most people do. Should he take a lesson on English?---No. Your use of English was far worse in your post.
  • RE: Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

    David, please don't be so hard on yourself. It is understandable while not necessarily something you should have expressed. It reminds me of just a couple weeks ago when Juan Williams was ousted from NPR for being honest about a feeling he has. The fact is that outsourcing call centers to India and Costa Rica (HP's call centers outside the U.S.) hurts business and the American workforce. There are tons of skilled people in India when it comes to IT, but I find it difficult to understand them sometimes. I am also going deaf, which only exacerbates the problem. I live with a non-native speaker of English and know how hard it is for her to speak English and how difficult it is for me to understand her sometimes. She has lived in the U.S. for almost a decade now. Most of the people who work a call center haven't been around enough native speakers, so their speech is difficult to understand. I can only imagine how an American with a thick redneck or New England accent sounds to them.

    If a political party actually hired a foreign team to assist with anything related to the election, however, there is no excuse. I'd like to investigate this more, but I'd also like to point out that political operatives should know better. Advertisements are made in Spanish to address a specific demographic. These political operatives usually do everything on purpose. There is a reason they seat women or minorities around the candidates that they do. There is a reason they all point with their thumbs. Whether or not the Democrats outsourced the robocalling, it is politically naive to not try to use people with the same accents as those getting calls.
  • Why not?

    Why not outsource robocalls? After all, we outsourced the presidency to Kenya... ;-)
    • RE: Astonishing: Did Florida Dems outsource election robocalls to India?

      @neverhome If that is your best criticism of President Obama, you shouldn't be allowed to vote. There are tons of valid arguments about how his policies are idiotic and dangerous, but you fail to make an intelligent argument on those grounds. Instead, you make a baseless accusation that would mean a grand conspiracy going back to the immigration officers who allowed Barry Obama into the U.S. as a child. Martians landing and giving you an anal probe are more likely.
      • You make some valid points, but, we still don't know for sure if "Barry"

        was "born" a U.S. citizen according to the constitutional rules that define eligibility for becoming a president.

        And, oh, yeah, I've seen the "birth certificate" released by Obama's team which purports to prove that he was born in Hawaii or to American citizens.
  • The fact that he called himself Joe...

    is a dead givaway that this call came from India. Indian call centre employees are often told to use Western names and, if possible, to speak with Western accents so that North American don't get pissed off on them for taking away North American jobs. If this guy had called himself Ramish or Vishnu, then I would assume he is a naturalized American calling locally, since there is no percieved reason to Westernize is name.<br><br>A South-Asian called "Joe"; Oh please!!!!

    Bell Canada outsources their call centre work to India; And whenever I call it, they ALWAYS introduce themselves with Western names; Never mind that I can barely understand them. Even telemarketing is outsourced to India now. Whenever they call my house, the phone does the long-distance ring, and the person's accent is as thick as corn-meal porridge.
    Yam Digger
  • It's called: "getting a bigger bang for your buck"...

    When a telemarketing rep's pay in the U.S. can be 3 or 4 times that of a "comparable" rep from India or elsewhere, then, it's possible that the dems could have been looking to get 3 or 4 times the return on their money by hiring the overseas telemarketers, where they could hire 3 telemarketers instead of the one for the same money. With that decision, their money could reach farther and they'd have more money to spend elsewhere.<br><br>It stinks, but, it's a good management strategy. But, in this case, if it turns out to be true, the dem leadership would not be griping too hard about "outsourcing" or "offshoring" of jobs. They were just looking to get their members elected at whatever cost.
  • Nicely Done, David

    It's not easy taking back something that may have been written in the heat of the moment. Bravo.