Michigan officials investigating robocall attempting to suppress absentee voting

Officials say call makes false claims about safety of mail voting using racial stereotypes

72 percent of Detroit's absentee ballot counts were incorrect, County Board of Canvassers said

DETROITThe Michigan Department of State and the Attorney General’s office are working to find the source of a robocall received by a Detroit resident that used racially-charged stereotypes to deter voting by mail.

Officials are warning residents to be vigilant against misinformation, which is expected to become more prevalent in the coming weeks.

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“This is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn 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.”

Officials said the recording claimed that voting by mail would 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.”

Officials said the robocall ended with the voice warning the listener not to be tricked “into giving your private information to the man” and to “beware of vote by mail.”

The caller claimed to be associated with Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, but the source of the call is still unknown.

“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.”

A recording of the robocall is available below:

If you have received this call, you are asked to report it to officials here and to elections@michigan.gov.

The robocall team needs the following information:

  • The recipient’s phone number
  • The recipient’s carrier
  • The robocall’s caller-ID number
  • Exact time and date of robocall
  • A recording of the message

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.