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'Racist' robocall dissuades Detroiters from mail-in voting ahead of presidential election


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Michigan authorities are investigating a robocall targeting Detroiters that falsely claims mail-in voting could lead to arrest, debt collection, or mandatory vaccines.

Describing the call as a “racist” attempt to intimidate Black voters, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said they’re trying to track down whoever is responsible.

Detroit, which is predominantly Black, is a Democratic stronghold.

In the recording
, the caller falsely says the identities of mail-in voters “will be part of a public database” used by police to “track down old warrants,” credit card companies to “collect outstanding debt” and health officials to “track people for mandatory” vaccines.

In a news release, Nessel and Benson assured residents that mail-in voting is a “safe, secure, and time-tested method” that “does not expose personal information anymore than simply registering to vote.”

“This is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote,” Benson said in a statement. “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.”

Benson pledged that she and Nessel “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.”

In the recording, the caller claims to be linked to conservative provocateurs Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, both of whom have denied involvement but have a reputation for spreading misinformation, Nessel and Benson said. So far, state officials said there is no evidence that the men are behind the calls.

“This is an unfortunate but perfect example of just how low people will go to undermine this election,” Nessel said in a statement. “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.”

Since May, President Donald Trump has pushed the false narrative that mail-in voting will produce “tremendous fraud,” and he threatened to withhold federal money from Michigan because the state was mailing every resident an application to vote in the primary election.

Because of the coronavirus, Michigan election officials expect a record number of residents to vote by mail in the November general election. In 2016, Trump won the state by just 10,704 votes, the slimmest margin in the U.S.

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