Benson, Nessel reviewing racist robocall seeking to suppress voting by mail

Election NewsAUGUST 27, 2020

Call makes false claims about safety of mail voting using racial stereotypes

The Michigan Department of State and the Attorney General’s office are partnering to determine the source of a robocall received by a Detroit resident using racially-charged stereotypes to deter voting by mail. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel completely debunked the voicemail, while warning Michigan voters to be vigilant against such types of misinformation, which will likely become more prevalent in the weeks and months ahead. The departments are reviewing the incident to determine next steps.

“This is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote,” said Benson. “The call preys on voters’ fear and mistrust of the criminal justice system – at a moment of historic reckoning and confrontation of systemic racism and the generational trauma that results – and twists it into a fabricated threat in order to discourage people from voting. The Attorney General and I will use every tool at our disposal to dispel this false rhetoric and seek justice on behalf of every voter who was targeted and harmed by this vicious attempt at voter suppression.”

The recording claims that voting by mail will allow police departments to “track down old warrants,” credit card companies to “collect outstanding debt” and for the CDC to “track people for mandatory vaccines.” It closes by warning the listener to not be tricked “into giving your private information to the man” and to “beware of vote by mail.”

Though the caller claims to be associated with Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl — two political operatives with a known reputation for spreading misinformation in an effort to gain notoriety — the source of the call is still unknown. Voting by mail, or any other method of casting your absentee ballot in Michigan, is a safe, secure and time-tested method of voting, and does not expose personal information any more than simply registering to vote.

“This is an unfortunate but perfect example of just how low people will go to undermine this election,” Nessel said.  “This robocall is fraught with scare tactics designed to intimidate Black voters – and we are already working hard to find the bad actors behind this effort. We are grateful to WWJ radio and reporter Sandra McNeill for bringing this to our attention and helping us with our efforts, and we are especially grateful to the person who received the call and alerted WWJ. The minute we heard about it we pulled in our robocall team and they are alerting our counterparts across the country.”

Information the robocall team needs to be effective in its review of a robocall includes:

  1. The recipient’s phone number;
  2. The recipient’s carrier;
  3. The robocall’s caller-ID number;
  4. Exact time and date of robocall; and
  5. A recording of the message.

A recording of the voicemail is available on Youtube. Anyone who has received this call or others with similar content should contact AG Nessel’s robocall team by logging onto mi.gov/robocalls and report it to elections@michigan.gov.

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