Bumbling right-wing activists Jack Burkman, 54, and Jacob Wohl, 22, were charged on Thursday in an alleged voter suppression scheme. Prosecutors in Michigan say the duo was behind a robocall designed to intimidate people from particpating in the general election.
Authorities said this robocall in August targeted “certain urban areas, including Detroit,” reaching 12,000 residents with a 313 area code number.
On top of that, the AG’s office said that their counterparts in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania reported similar robocalls to urban areas featuring high populations of people of color.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Michigan authorities were looking into such robocalls as of August. The speaker was a woman claiming to be from a civil rights organization started by Burkman and Wohl. She told listeners to “beware of vote by mail.”
“Mail-in voting sounds great,” she said. “But did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants, and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debt? The CDC is even pushing to give preference for mail in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines.”
At the time, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) voiced caution, saying that the source of this robocall was unknown.
There was no such reservation in her Thursday statement on the matter.
“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”
The defendants were hit with felony charges for voter intimidation, conspiracy to commit an election law violation, using a computer to intimidate voters, and using a computer to commit conspiracy.
In August, Burkman and Wohl denied having anything to do with the robocalls, according to The Daily Beast. Wohl did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment on the new charges. Burkman did not respond when we reached out to an email address he used as a lobbyist.
An arraignment is pending for Burkman, a Virginia resident, and Wohl, a California resident, prosecutors said.
“The Attorney General’s office will be working – with local law enforcement if necessary – to secure the appearance of each defendant in Michigan. It’s too early to say if formal extradition will be necessary or if they will present themselves here voluntarily in the very near future,” they said.
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[Screengrab via NBC News]
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