Michigan Investigating ‘Racially-Charged’ Robocalls Spreading Vote-By-Mail Disinfo

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 04: Canvassers Talma Fitzpatrick, left, and Emily Krupp, right, wait for voters outside of a polling location at the First Congregational Church during the Michigan Primary Election on August 4, ... DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 04: Canvassers Talma Fitzpatrick, left, and Emily Krupp, right, wait for voters outside of a polling location at the First Congregational Church during the Michigan Primary Election on August 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Among the candidates is U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) running against fellow Democrat and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 27, 2020 3:52 p.m.

Detroit residents have been receiving sketchy robocalls spreading false and “racially-charged” claims about vote-by-mail, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Thursday while announcing she and the Michigan Attorney General were reviewing the matter.

Who exactly is behind the calls is still unknown, Benson said. But adding to the confusion is that the calls themselves claim to be from a group run by Jacob Wohl and Jack Burman, two conservative provocateurs who have attempted to use incredibly clownish schemes to spread false allegations against everyone from Robert Mueller to Elizabeth Warren.

Burkman in an email to TPM denied being involved with the robocalls, repeatedly claiming that “nobody doing robo calls would ever put out their own cell number.”

“[I]’d bet on a [S]oros group trying to embarrass us,” Burkman said, referring to the philanthropist George Soros, who is often the targeted of far-right conspiracy theories. Burkman offered no evidence to back that claim.

Wohl has also denied involvement, according to the Guardian.

The calls are being investigated by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who raised concerns that it might be part of a nationwide effort.

“This is an unfortunate but perfect example of just how low people will go to undermine this election,” Nessel said in a statement. “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.”

The robocall, according to a recording released by Benson, tells recipients falsely that voting by mail will put their information in databases that will be used for tracking down warrants, debt collection and “mandatory vaccines.”

Benson called the calls an “unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote.”

“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,” she said.

Listening to a recording of the robocall released by Benson:

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