Yesterday we posted about suspicious calls being made in North Carolina. The calls purported to be from a man who identified himself only as "Lamont Williams" and told people to wait for a vote registration packet in the mail and said, "All you need to do is sign it, date it and return your application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard."
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Democracy North Carolina, a government watchdog, cried foul, saying that the calls went out to "black neighborhoods" and was evidently a vote suppression tactic since the registration deadline for the presidential primary has already passed. The North Carolina state elections board got involved and asked for the public's help in determining the source of the calls, which apparently blocked caller ID from showing the number. You can listen to the call here (wav).
Now Facing South reports that a Washington nonprofit called Women's Voices Women Vote is behind the calls.
The group's spokeswoman Sarah Johnson confirmed to me that those were the group's calls and said that they were part of an effort to register three million women voters in 24 states. The fact that the calls came shortly before the North Carolina primary, potentially confusing voters, was unfortunate mistake, she said. We're "incredibly apologetic about the timing of this." The group was simply working at such a "high volume" that it was "extremely difficult to tailor the mailing to every single state's schedule," she said. The calls precede the mailers, she said, because it increases the rate of response.
The group had also let the state board of elections know prior to sending out the mailings that they would be doing so, but the letter to the board did not mention the calls. You can read that letter, provided by the group, here.
The group is currently in the process of halting the mailed packets, she said, at the request of the Democracy North Carolina and the state board of elections. The calls have also stopped.
As for why the group's calls had used an apparently fictitious persona named "Lamont Williams," Johnson first said, "as far as I know, it is a recorded message." But when I asked why the group had used that name when there is no such person working with the group, she said she did not know why the name had been used.
The group also used a female caller named "Julie," Johnson said (although she was not sure of the name). She told me that she would check to see if there was any particular reason why certain calls were made by Julie and others by Lamont.
But that practice would stop, she said. "This not identifying ourselves on the call, that's not something that is going to continue as we move forward. Our phone calls in the future will correct any confusion about the calls." When I asked if there had been any particular strategy behind not identifying the group as making the calls, she said no.
A statement released by the group's executive director is below.
Update: As Facing South notes in detail, this is not the first time that there have been complaints about WVWV's activities. There have been complaints in several states.
And in Virginia this February, the state police there even investigated the calls as a possible identity theft scam, only to find that WVWV was behind them. The calls had gone out shortly before the Virginia presidential primary.