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Robocalls Urge Flint, Michigan, Voters to Not Vote Until After Polls Close

Fraudulent robocalls and texts are telling voters to not vote today or to select the opposite candidate on their ballot.

Flint residents cast their early vote at City Hall in Flint, Michigan, October 20, 2020.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said on Tuesday morning that residents of Flint, Michigan, are receiving robocalls claiming that the voting lines are too long and instructing them to vote on Wednesday instead (when votes will no longer be counted).

“Getting reports of multiple robocalls going to Flint residents that, due to long lines, they should vote tomorrow,” Nessel wrote on Twitter. “Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote. No long lines and today is the last day to vote. Don’t believe the lies! Have your voice heard!”

The robocalls appear to be targeting Flint residents in particular. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer tweeted, “an unknown party is purposefully spreading misinformation via robocalls in Flint in an attempt to confuse voters.” Flint has a majority nonwhite population and roughly 54 percent of its population was Black as of 2019.

Nessel has also warned of a fraudulent text telling local voters that owing to a “typographical error,” those who wish to vote for Joe Biden should instead select Donald Trump on the ballot, and vice versa. The Washington Post reports that the text claims that the information comes from the “Federal Burue [sic] of Investigation.”

Michigan voters may have been targeted in these voter suppression tactics because it is an important battleground state for this election. According to poll aggregators, Biden is ahead by about 8 points in Michigan and has maintained a lead there for many months.

Michigan is not alone. Over the past weeks, an unidentified robocaller has also been placing calls to people telling them to “stay safe and stay home,” which some have interpreted as a tactic to stop voters from going to the polls. The robocaller has made an estimated 10 million calls to people in Florida and Nebraska.

Though it’s unclear if the robocalls are limited to specific areas, data has shown that battleground states — the ones that will likely determine the results of the election — have been targeted with the most misinformation about voting by mail this election. Across news outlets, cable television and social media, media analysis company Zignal Labs found that Pennsylvania in particular, along with Ohio and Texas, has been targeted with misinformation about mail-in voting. Pennsylvania is an important battleground in this election; if Trump loses Pennsylvania, as Will Pitt wrote in Truthout, his chances of winning are just 2 percent.

Voters and poll workers have also been reporting accounts of voter intimidation on social media since polls opened on Tuesday. One poll worker in Brooklyn posted a video of a Trump supporter at a polling location harassing voters and accusing them of being “antifa.” A local North Carolina publication called Charlotte Agenda posted that a man wearing a Trump hat and wielding a gun interrupted politicians speaking outside a largely Democratic precinct.

Various parties have been employing voter intimidation tactics over the past months. In October, conservative activist Jacob Wohl and his partner Jack Burkman were indicted in Ohio for allegedly using robocalls to intimidate Black and other minority voters. The pair purportedly targeted voters in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois with over 85,000 calls.

Trump and his campaign have also been directly responsible for several of these voter intimidation incidents. At the first presidential debate, Trump urged his followers to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” And, in October, a group of Trump campaign officials received a warning from the Pennsylvania attorney general after they went to election offices and ballot drop off locations to monitor and record people filling out absentee ballot request forms and dropping off their ballots.