Officials in major battlefield states say they are investigating shady robocalls warning residents to stay home on election day.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday morning her office had received “reports of several robocalls to residents of Flint who, due to long queues, are expected to vote tomorrow” – it that is, the day after the elections, when the polling stations would be closed. The false statements, Nessel said, were an attempt to “suppress the vote.”
And in Iowa, the Register of Monks reported that the Secretary of State’s office had contacted the FBI about calls asking swing state voters to “stay home, stay safe, and not vote.” The Federal Communications Commission said it was also aware of reports of deceptive calls.
In Nebraska, state officials have received reports of mass automated calls asking residents of the state to “stay home,” although there was no specific message about the election. and that it is not clear whether voters, in this case, were the target.
John Scott-Railton, a researcher at the University of Toronto’s CitizenLab, obtained a transcript of one of the calls, in which a robotic voice tells the Nebraskans, “This is just a test call. It’s time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home. Data provided by spam blocker Robokiller shows that the same message has been around since at least December 2019, with around 287 million transmissions in all 50 states. In September, the Canadian newspaper Ottawa Matters reported that police were investigating similar calls to phones in Canada and Australia, as well as the United States.
Anonymous robotic calls that propagate election misinformation have long been a voter suppression tactic. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have been charged with conspiracy to commit an election violation and telecommunications fraud in Michigan and Ohio in connection with robocalls allegedly targeting minority voters in both states with false information on the mail ballots.
The robocalls to voters come as millions of Americans go to the polls and intelligence officials in the Trump administration brace for the possibility of domestic or foreign actors engaging in disinformation efforts to change the polls. 2020 presidential election results. Two senior officials say the administration is monitoring robocalls and working with state officials to publicly warn voters that the tapes are not authentic.
For weeks, senior intelligence and national security officials have worked to track down and mitigate threats to the 2020 presidential election, including threats posed by foreign actors to voting infrastructure. and those who peddle disinformation.
Director of the Office of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, in an unusual announcement on October 21, said his office and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) had identified attempts by Iran and the Russia to undermine confidence in the elections. Ratcliffe said Iran orchestrated an effort to send threatening emails to voters in Pennsylvania and Florida in an attempt to intimidate. The intelligence community has previously said that Iran is seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s candidacy. During the October 21 briefing, Ratcliffe also said that Russia attempted to interfere in the election but did not give details of that effort.
Officials working to secure elections say states have worked for weeks with the CISA to set up surveillance teams to monitor potential infrastructure attacks and are concerned about an increase in disinformation.
A senior administration official said intelligence agencies, working with social media companies, had already started tracking messages spreading false stories about the candidates, including a tweet sent by the former director of the Office of National Intelligence Ric Grennell. Grenell posted on November 1 a photo of an unmasked Vice President Joe Biden on a plane speaking with one of his aides. “Washington, DC phony! @JoeBiden doesn’t wear a mask on an airplane – but does wear one OUTSIDE !?” Grenell wrote, although Biden’s photo was taken in 2019 before the pandemic began.
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