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2 men face felony charges in Michigan for alleged voter-suppression robocalls

Detroiters received robocalls in Aug. making false claims about absentee voting ahead of election

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

DETROIT – Two men are facing felony charges in Michigan after allegedly orchestrating robocalls meant to discourage voters from voting by mail in the presidential election by making false claims.

On Thursday Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed charges against Jack Burkman, 54, from Arlington, Virginia and Jacob Wohl, 22, from Los Angeles, California for allegedly attempting to suppress votes in multiple U.S. cities -- specifically those with significant minority populations -- for the November election.

According to officials, an investigation revealed that the robocalls have been reported in Detroit and a number of other cities across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. For Detroit, the calls specifically targeted residents -- nearly 12,000 -- with a 313 area code back in August. Officials believe about 85,000 robocalls have been made nationally.

The recorded message falsely claims that if people vote by mail, their personal information will be shared in a public database used by police departments to track down old warrants, as well as by credit card companies seeking to collect outstanding debt. The voice recording also falsely claims that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will use personal information to track people down for mandatory vaccines.

“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the robocall.

Burkman and Wohl have been charged with intimidating voters and conspiracy to commit an election law violation -- both five-year felonies -- in addition to using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy and using a computer to commit the crime of election law -- both seven-year felonies.

Nessel filed the charges Thursday in Detroit’s 36th District Court. Officials say it is too soon to know if formal extradition will be necessary or if the individuals will voluntarily present themselves. A date for their arraignment has not yet been announced.

Anyone who has received this call on or around August 26 can file a complaint by calling Nessel’s office at 517-335-7650.

Officials are reminding the public that there is “very little, if any, evidence to substantiate claims that mail-in ballots lead to fraud, as many states have successfully conducted the process for years,” Thursday’s press release reads. Rhetoric surround mail-in voting, or absentee voting, has been confusing over the last several months -- but Michigan voters can be assured that the claims made in the robocalls are false, and that their votes and information will not be made public.

Read: Trust Index: Fact-checking claims about absentee voting made during Trump-Biden debate

The official charges against Burkman and Wohl can be viewed in the document below.


Voting by mail in Michigan for 2020 General Election: What to know


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