The authorities in Michigan said on Thursday they were investigating deceptive robocalls targeting Detroit residents in what appeared to be an effort to deter them from voting by mail.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, called the robocalls, which she said used racially charged stereotypes, an “unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote.”
The calls falsely claim that mail-in ballots expose voters to the release of personal information — including to bill collectors.
My office has received a recording of a robocall targeting Detroit voters using racially-charged stereotypes and false information to deter voting by mail. It is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote. https://t.co/lgNEh8mtvf
— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) August 27, 2020
Voice mail messages left by the robocalls seemed to suggest they were sponsored by Project 1599, describing the group as a “civil rights organization” started by Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman.
There is a group called Project 1599 started by those two men, conservative Washington political operatives, but it is not a civil rights organization. Mr. Wohl and Mr. Burkman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Wohl, who has a large online following, has in the past helped orchestrate efforts to smear opponents of President Trump. He has made headlines in the past two years for promoting false sexual assault allegations against Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, and Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Democratic presidential candidate.
A spokeswoman for Ms. Benson’s office said it was not yet clear who was behind the calls, a portion of which were inaudible.
The spokeswoman, Tracy Wimmer, said that “everything in that call is completely false.”
“Your information is no more exposed than if you simply register to vote,” Ms. Wimmer said, adding that both Ms. Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel of Michigan were beginning an investigation of the calls, which she said appeared to violate federal laws prohibiting voter intimidation.
It was not clear how many Detroit residents had received the calls.