Michigan: Election robocall campaigns target Michigan, tell voters nationwide to ‘stay home’ | Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker/The Washington Post

A wave of suspicious robocalls and texts bombarded voters as they began to cast their ballots on Tuesday, sparking fresh concerns about the extent to which malicious actors might harness Americans’ smartphones to scare people from the polls. Across the country, voters have received an estimated 10 million automated, spam calls in recent days telling them to “stay safe and stay home,” according to experts who track the telecom industry. In Michigan, meanwhile, government officials on Tuesday sounded early alarms about additional attempts to deceive the state’s voters, including one robocall campaign targeting the city of Flint that told people to vote tomorrow if they hoped to avoid long lines today. The origins of the each of the calls and texts remain unclear, reflecting the sophisticated tactics that robocallers typically deploy in order to reach Americans en masse across a wide array of devices and services. State election officials have scrambled to reassure voters in response, with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pledging Tuesday to “work quickly to stamp out misinformation” — and federal officials indicating they are investigating the matter. The reach and timing of the “stay home” calls caught the attention of YouMail, a tech company that offers a robocall-blocking app for smartphones, as well as some of the country’s top telecom carriers, which determined from an investigation that the calls may be foreign in origin. Data prepared for The Washington Post by YouMail shows that the calls have reached 280 of the country’s 317 area codes since the campaign began in the summer.

Source: Election robocall campaigns target Michigan, tell voters nationwide to ‘stay home’ – The Washington Post

Ohio: Two conservative operatives charged in a robocall scam are ordered to call 85,000 people back | Kathleen Gray/The New York Times

Two conservative operatives, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who have been charged in Ohio and Michigan with election fraud for sending out tens of thousands of robocalls intended to deter people from voting, have been ordered by a federal judge to call those voters back and inform them that the original call “contained false information.” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in the Southern District of New York, said in his ruling on Wednesday that the initial robocall sent in August to 85,000 people, “cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.” Mr. Wohl, 22, and Mr. Burkman, 54, both of Arlington, Va., were charged last month in Michigan and indicted by a grand jury in Ohio this week, with sending deceptive robocalls to 85,000 people, mostly in minority communities, that stated authorities would use the information on their absentee ballot forms to create a database to track down people with arrest warrants or outstanding debt. According to Judge Marrero’s ruling on Wednesday, the pair must make calls to everyone who received the robocall and deliver this message: “At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”

Full Article: Two conservative operatives charged in a robocall scam are ordered to call 85,000 people back. – The New York Times

Virginia: Voters Get Mysterious Robocalls That Their Polling Places Have Changed | The Intercept

Virginians go to the polls today to vote on a number of statewide and legislative races. But voters in one prominent swing county in Virginia have received robocalls falsely telling them their polling places have changed. Harry Wiggins, chair of the Prince Williams County Democratic Committee, told The Intercept that voters started alerting him about these calls last Friday. “Some of those people were actually called multiple times,” Wiggins said. “They’re saying, ‘Your regular polling places has changed, you need to vote at a different polling place.’” As of Tuesday, Wiggins said 32 voters have alerted him that they had received these robocalls. Robin Williams, chair of the Prince Williams County Elections Board, confirmed to The Intercept that they have forwarded these complaints to the state — which has the power to investigate and prosecute election shenanigans. He also said that the county was not responsible for these calls. “If we change a precinct, we can’t do it 60 days before an election,” he said. He pointed out that every voter is notified by mail if their polling station is changed. “We spend a fair amount of money in order to move one of these precincts, a lot of notice. … You will never get a phone call from us or anything like that. Our communication to you is by mail.”

National: Judge: First Amendment Protects Political Robocalls | Wall Street Journal

Political robocalls may be an irritating feature of modern campaigning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve protection under the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled. A decision handed down Wednesday in Arkansas federal court struck down a state law passed 35 years ago that banned political robocalls. The statute restricted commercial robocalling and also made it unlawful to solicit information “in connection with a political campaign” using an automated phone system for dialing numbers and playing recorded messages. The restriction was challenged by a Virginia-based communications firm, Conquest Communications Group, which sought “to conduct automated telephone calls in the state, including surveys, messages concerning voting, express advocacy calls, and a variety of other calls made in connection with political campaigns.”

Voting Blogs: Robo-calls, in Montana and Elsewhere | State of Elections

Missoula, Montana, is a beautiful city. There are mountains in the distance, tall, deep-green trees everywhere, old buildings – and a rocky, white-swirling river moving through it. No reasonable person seeing Missoula for the first time would think to focus on the city’s current robo-call election law controversy. This month, parents of students enrolled in Missoula’s schools received automated phone calls containing a message from Missoula’s mayor, John Engen. The content of the message is available on Youtube. In short, the message urges parents to vote on an upcoming bond, tells them where and how they can cast their ballot, and ends with this encouragement: “Thank you for everything you do to support your children, and to ensure a positive future for your family – and our wonderful community.”

Wisconsin: Voters getting confusing, misleading messages about election | Wisconsin Gazette

Wisconsin residents are receiving confusing messages by phone and in the mail about the election, according to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. The organization said that just last week some people received a Wisconsin voter registration form in the mail with their name and address already filled in. They were told to mail the form in to their municipal clerk, even though it was already too late for mailed registrations to be processed. Other people have reported receiving robocalls telling them to bring a photo ID to vote. This happened after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the voter ID law would not be implemented in this election.

Wisconsin: Lawmakers could restrict political robocalls | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Political robocalls could be added to Wisconsin’s do-not-call list and become illegal before the Wisconsin governor’s race if a bipartisan bill makes it through the Wisconsin Legislature. Similar proposals in the past never made it into law, partly because of opposition from special interest groups that use the automated robocalls. But authors of Senate Bill 97 say it has better odds than any bill in the past because it’s extremely popular with increasingly frustrated consumers and because it has 30 co-sponsors — more than any previous bill. “I think it still has some obstacles to clear, but it’s closer to passing now than it has been at any point in the past,” said Rep. André Jacque (R-DePere), one of the bill’s authors. “A large part is, with every election season, you see a higher number of calls. Technology has made it easier and cheaper to make these calls. It’s something, if we don’t get it passed, I think we’re going to continue to hear from constituents.”

Canada: New election law to crack down on robocalls, voter fraud | The Record

Canada’s election law is getting a major overhaul, aimed at making it tougher to play on the dirty-tricks side of the political game. A crackdown on automated “robocalls” and voter fraud are among the measures contained in the 242-page bill unveiled Tuesday by Democratic Reform minister Pierre Poilievre. And in what’s being widely viewed as a rebuke to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, the Conservatives have taken away his oversight of investigations into election-law abuse. The commissioner of elections, who conducts those probes, will now report to Canada’s director of public prosecutions, who has an arm’s-length relationship with government and political entities. “What we are doing is making sure that office has full independence,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the Commons on Tuesday. Poilievre said the change gives Canada a new breed of political-crimes investigator — one with “sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.”

National: Thousands of voting problem reports fielded across country | Detroit Free Press

Millions of Americans turned out to vote in Tuesday’s razor-thin presidential election, facing long lines, strict new identification requirements and, in some areas, polling stations without power. Voters in key states such as Florida and Virginia waited in long lines hours after polls closed Tuesday night to cast ballots, even as politicians and their supporters urged them not to give up despite the long delays. Candidates turned to social media to encourage voters through the long wait. “#StayInLine #StayInLine #StayInLine” Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin tweeted. The three states allow voters who were in line when polls closed to cast ballots. One Florida elections office mistakenly told voters in robocalls that the election was today.

Canada: Elections Canada wants more people to cast ballots, but online voting is still out | The Globe and Mail

Elections Canada is trying to ease registration for young voters and is pushing for more civic education in elementary classrooms, according to the federal elections watchdog. But online voting is still out of the question. Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, delivered the remarks in an online discussion with Globe and Mail readers Thursday night. “Online voting would certainly make voting more convenient for everyone, including young voters,” Mr. Mayrand wrote. “That being said, there are still issues surrounding the integrity, verifiability and secrecy of the vote.” As for the robocalls affair – alleged misleading automated calls during the 2011 federal election – Mr. Mayrand said the investigation continues but he couldn’t give a timeline.

Canada: U.S. voter fraud convict calls Canada’s robocall scandal ‘sophisticated’ | Montreal Gazette

A Republican political operative who spent three months in an American prison for making illegal political calls says that fraudulent calls in the last Canadian election are likely an American import. In his 2008 book How to Rig an Election, Allen Raymond tells the story of his 10-year political career, which ended abruptly when he was convicted of jamming the New Hampshire Democrats’ phone bank during a Senate election. When the FBI closed in, officials on the Republican National Committee cut off Raymond, and rather than face 25 years in prison, he co-operated with the investigation. Raymond, who now works in Washington as a lobbyist for a labour organization, suspects whoever made illegal voter-suppression calls in Canada in the last election likely learned their dirty tricks south of the border.

Canada: Poll shows Liberal, NDP supporters targeted for vote-suppression calls | canada.com

A poll being released Tuesday morning by the Council of Canadians shows a pattern of misleading election calls targeting opposition supporters in the seven ridings where the organization is seeking new elections. The poll, conducted April 13-19 by Ekos Research Associates, found that Liberal, NDP and Green party supporters in the seven ridings were more much more likely to report receiving a telephone call late in the election directing them to the wrong polling station than Conservative supporters, or opposition supporters in other ridings.

Editorials: There’s no democratic quick fix | Ottawa Citizen

As Canadians focus on cases of possible election fraud with the unfolding “robocalls” scandal, some people have suggested that Internet voting might be one way of stopping unscrupulous political activists from sending voters to non-existent polling stations. In fact, Internet voting is likely to increase, rather than decrease, electoral fraud. Since online voting requires passwords, there would be nothing to stop eligible voters from giving or selling their passwords to others. A few charismatic members of a community organization, or of a partisan political association, or of a family might then be able to control the votes of numerous citizens.

Canada: Vote suppression takes place in Canada too | peoplesworld

The United States and Mexico have not been the only places where the right wing has committed electoral fraud to win recent elections. There is evidence to suggest the Conservative Party of Canada used voter suppression schemes to help it win the 2011 elections. While ballot boxes didn’t actually go missing, the Conservatives may have flooded ridings (electoral districts) with automated, pre-recorded phone messages designed to disfranchise supporters of rival candidates. In the Ontario riding of Guelph, it is alleged by Elections Canada, the country’s election authority, that a Conservative operative using the alias “Pierre Poutine” made automated calls to suppress votes. During the 2011 elections, there was a tight race between the leading Conservative and Liberal Party candidates. False messages, supposedly from Elections Canada, sent hundreds of rival non-Conservative voters chasing non-existent polling stations on Election Day.

Ohio: Rogue political robocalls on the rise in Ohio | cleveland.com

Shadowy unregistered political groups — some of which claim to be “super PACs” — are placing apparently illegal robocalls to voters across Ohio and the country. Experts say the latest form of dirty politics has the power to sway elections, and the problem is escalating nationwide. A Cincinnati-area Democratic congressional primary candidate, David Krikorian, says his defeat at the ballot box on March 6 may have been caused by a robocall that went out to voters the prior weekend, urging them to vote for an unknown candidate who didn’t actively campaign, instead of Krikorian, who was endorsed by many Democratic groups.

Ohio: Inquiry launched into PAC supporting little known candidate | USAToday

Federal prosecutors in southern Ohio are looking into whether a mysterious political action committee that helped nominate an unknown congressional candidate violated federal election laws. The “Victory Ohio Super PAC” made a series of automated phone calls supporting Waverly, Ohio truck driver William R. Smith in last week’s Democratic primary for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District seat. The PAC did not disclose its activity to the Federal Election Commission, which it would be required to do if it spent more than $1,000, so there’s no record of who is responsible for the calls.

Canada: Robocall scandal angers marchers | Winnipeg Free Press

More than 100 people rallied in Winnipeg Sunday to urge the House of Commons to get to the bottom of the robocall scandal. “This is something that affects everyone,” said 22-year-old Jonathan Ventura, carrying a polling station sign with arrows pointing in all directions. The student, who doesn’t belong to a political party, was joined by MPs past and present, pro-democracy, peace, labour and environmental group members at the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street, carrying signs and waving Canadian flags. Similar demonstrations took place across Canada Sunday.

Canada: Elections Canada expands probe into fraudulent messages in 2011 vote | thestar.com

Elections Canada has extended its probe of phony election calls to include yet another Ontario riding as the watchdog agency launches an online complaint form to help field reports from concerned voters. Canadians who think “fraudulent calls interfered with their right to vote, or who have information about such calls” are being asked to pass along what they know to elections investigators, it says. Elections Canada has enlarged its “inquiry” centre to handle the high volume of phone calls and email traffic, agency spokesperson Diane Benson said. The agency has been flooded with reports from voters — 31,000 by last Friday — about harassing or misleading phone calls in the 2011 federal election.

Canada: Elections Canada probing spending records of Conservative campaign in robocall scandal | canada.com

Elections Canada investigators probing the robocalls scandal are interviewing workers on the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., and trying to determine why payments made to an Edmonton voice-broadcasting company were not declared in financial reports filed with the agency. In recent days, the agency has spoken to at least three workers from the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke, including the official agent responsible for ensuring the campaign’s financial report was accurate. Elections Canada wants to know why the costs of automated calls the campaign has admitted sending out never appeared in the campaign’s expense report, as required by law. Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager, said he is co-operating with the investigation and handing over bills he received from RackNine Inc. for a series of robocalls promoting Burke events during the election. The same company was used to transmit misleading Elections Canada calls on election day.

Canada: Canadian Conservatives Acknowledge Vote Suppression in 2011 | WSJ.com

Canada’s Conservative government said Saturday there appeared to have been deliberate and illegal efforts to suppress votes in one constituency during last year’s national election, though a spokesman didn’t say whether the party now thought members, or those working for them, were responsible. Canada’s election agency is probing allegations that some Canadian voters were misled about the location of polling places by automated phone calls, or robocalls, during an election in May 2011. Opposition politicians have accused the Conservatives of an orchestrated attempt at suppressing votes, a charge the party has denied. The comments by Dean Del Mastro, a Conservative legislator and the main government spokesman for the controversy, marked the first time the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged there may have been specific wrongdoing.

Canada: Storm brews in Canada over election ‘robocalls’ | AFP

A probe into “robocalls” that misdirected Canadian voters to fake polling stations during last year’s election, won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories, is casting suspicion on the results. It is not yet clear who was behind the automated telephone calls to voters in the town of Guelph, Ontario in spring 2011 that reportedly led to a chaotic scene at a polling station, and likely led some to give up on voting. The opposition parties, whose supporters were apparently targeted, pointed fingers at the Conservatives, but the Conservatives denied any involvement while hitting back at what they claimed was a “smear campaign.” Elections Canada, after being inundated with complaints, is now investigating the rogue calls, aided by the federal police, as new allegations are raised daily. At a press conference on Tuesday, outspoken New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin described the misleading pre-recorded calls claiming to be from Elections Canada as a “heinous affront to democracy.” “How is this different from a bunch of goons with clubs blocking the door to a voter station,” he said.

Canada: Government shifts blame in robo-call scandal | AFP

Elections Canada said Friday it is investigating more than 31,000 complaints of alleged dirty tricks during last year’s election won by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories. The “high volume” of complaints regarding “robocalls” that misdirected voters to fake polling stations for the May 2, 2011 election is 100 times more than the elections watchdog usually receives for any Canadian ballot. “Elections Canada is reviewing these and will take action as appropriate,” spokesman John Enright said in an email.

Canada: Robocall vote suppression vies to be Canada’s own Watergate | Straight Goods

Canada appear to be on the verge of a major political upheaval thanks to the investigative work of two enterprising reporters working for news outlets that are generally considered Conservative-friendly. The story broke last week after a nine-month investigation by reporters Stephen Maher (Postmedia News) and Glen McGregor (Ottawa Citizen). They were curious about reports of strange phone calls voters were getting across Canada during the federal election campaign. Some of the calls were purportedly from parties they supported by the voters being called but came at annoying times or had offensive content. Some came, supposedly, from elections officials and had false information about where to vote. Maher and McGregor compiled a massive database of these calls and, last week, they broke what has become known as the Robocall scandal. “It has become quite clear that the Conservatives have no decent line of defence, here. They’re flying blind.”

Maryland: Schurick Sentenced in Robocalling; Maryland Vote Suppression History Reviewed | Yahoo! News

Paul Schurick, campaign manager for former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., received a one-year suspended sentence, 30 days of home detention, and 500 community service hours Thursday after being convicted in connection with a robocall campaign aimed at keeping black voters away from the polls in the 2010 election. The call impliedly made by Democrats told voters now-Gov. Martin O’Malley was assured of victory so they needn’t get out to vote. Schurick could have been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, the Baltimore Sun said, for violating a 2006 law prohibiting the use of deception to influence voter decisions.

Indiana: Court Upholds Robocall Ban | WRTV Indianapolis

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state law that requires a live operator on the phone before any recorded message is delivered does not violate the right to free speech or the right to participate in political speech.

The 4-1 decision involves a case that began in 2006 in which FreeEats.com, an automated phone messaging operator, sought to overturn an Indiana law that forbade so-called robocalls, or unsolicited calls with automated messages.
The case stemmed from automated calls the company made on behalf of a group called the Economic Freedom Fund during the 2006 congressional campaign.

National: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks | The Washington Post

Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.

Cardin said he would file a bill Wednesday to make it a federal offense to produce or use fraudulent election material to try to mislead or discourage voting within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow prosecutors nationwide to guard against the kind of robocalls that a Maryland jury this month decided were intended to suppress black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s (R) campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of election law violations stemming from ordering the calls, which told voters in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The automated call said Democratic candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama had already been successful. Schurick is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16, and faces potential jail time.

National: Senator Cardin to introduce voter fraud bill | baltimoresun.com

Sen. Ben Cardin said he will unveil legislation Wednesday to impose criminal and civil penalties for those who distribute false voting information before an election. The effort, which Cardin is making along with New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, comes days after Paul Schurick, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager, was found guilty of election fraud for attempting to suppress turnout with a last-minute robo-call.

The call, directed at black neighborhoods in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, told voters to “relax,” and stated before polls had closed that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reelection was assured. Schurick’s attorney, arguing that the call was protected under the First Amendment, has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Maryland: Ex-Ehrlich campaign manager Schurick convicted in robocall case | The Washington Post

Paul E. Schurick, the 2010 campaign manager for former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was convicted Tuesday by a Baltimore jury of four counts stemming from a robocall that prosecutors said was intended to suppress the black vote.

The call, which Schurick acknowledged authorizing, was placed on Election Day to 112,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, the state’s two largest majority-African American jurisdictions. Recipients were told by an unidentified woman that they could “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had been successful. The guilty verdict not only sullied the three-decade career of one of Maryland’s best-known political operatives, it also served as a major embarrassment for Ehrlich, the state’s only Republican governor in a generation.

Although prosecutors have never suggested that Ehrlich approved the calls, he is pushing a new book that draws anecdotes from his four years in Annapolis and contends his failed comeback bid last year was “swamped” by the black vote.

Maryland: Robocall: Schurick guilty of election fraud | baltimoresun.com

A Baltimore jury Tuesday found Paul Schurick, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager, guilty of election fraud and related charges for his role in an Election Day 2010 robocall. The jury found Schurick guilty on all four counts, including election fraud and failing to include an Ehrlich campaign authorization line on the calls. After the verdict was read, Schurick clutched his wife, who burst into tears.

Prosecutors said the call, which was made as Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley swept to a re-election victory, was designed to suppress black votes. Schurick maintained a solemn face after the hearing, comforted distraught family members and friends and declined to comment on the verdict. His attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, called himself “disappointed” and vowed to appeal on First Amendment grounds that the call was protected, political speech. “The attempt for the state to regulate political speech is unconstitutional,” he said.

Maryland: Case May Discourage Political Dirty Tricks | NPR

A little-noticed trial in Maryland could affect how many dirty tricks voters will see in the upcoming elections — things like anonymous fliers or phone calls telling people to vote on the wrong day, or in the wrong precinct, or that they can’t vote at all if they have an outstanding parking ticket. The tactics are often illegal, but it’s rare for anyone to get caught, let alone end up in court.

The case in Maryland involves the 2010 rematch between former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich and incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley. On Election Day, the Ehrlich campaign knew that things weren’t going well. It was losing African-American voters in droves.

At around 3 p.m., Ehrlich’s political director, Bernie Marczyk, sent campaign manager Paul Schurick an email asking, “What does Julius need to make the city turnout stay low?”