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.