Many Montana voters were sick and tired of all the radio ads, mailbox flyers and phone calls by the end of the recent congressional special election, but some also experienced a new type of political advertising: text messages. Somehow, the text messages were targeted toward those held on to their ballot until the last few days of the election and Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says they probably found that info out online.

Photo courtesy of Jon King

"It is kind of annoying to know that you are not as private as you think," Stapleton said. "It is public information that you've received an absentee ballot and they can track when those have been returned. They can purchase and buy those lists... big data is here to stay."

Stapleton says some of the staff in the Secretary of State’s office also received a barrage of text messages and that they apparently came from a group backing Democratic Candidate Rob Quist.

"You are going to be harassed, you are going to get mailers, you're going to get calls, and now you're going to get texts... we saw several of them even in the last 24 hours when it got kind of exciting, Stapleton said. "We saw some blanket ones, I don't know if they were from the DCCC, but they were pretty harsh."

The Montana Political Practices Office says this was the first time the text messages had been used in a political campaign.

Those dedicated to targeting absentee voters can find out which ballots have been returned or not pretty easily using the State of Montana’s My Voter Page tool… all one needs to know is the voter’s name and birth date. As you can see below, that info can tell you a lot about where a voter is in the process.

Photo courtesy of Jon King