Consumers face misleading robocalls on Election Day 2020

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Despite some malicious efforts, officials say things are going better than expected

There’s a dose of good news/bad news being reported on Election Day 2020. The good news is that so far -- by noon, Tuesday -- there are no reports of suspected digital meddling. The bad news is that voters across the U.S. have reported receiving peculiar robocalls trying to prod them into staying home on Election Day, according to state and party officials.

The acting U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, said Tuesday that “we have no indications that a foreign actor has succeeded in compromising or manipulating any votes in this election.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Christopher Krebs, a senior Department of Homeland Security official told a press conference early Tuesday, saying that the day isn’t over yet and that there “may be other events or activities or efforts to interfere or undermine confidence in the election.”

Misleading robocalls attempt to suppress voting

Election and party officials in Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan reported a jump in the number of automated phone calls going out to voters trying to keep them away from the polls for a variety of phony reasons.

“Getting reports of multiple robocalls going to Flint residents that, due to long lines, they should vote tomorrow,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said on Twitter. “Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote.”

Nessel has had her hands full lately. In October, two notorious right-wing operatives were charged with felonies in Michigan for apparently orchestrating thousands of robocalls "aimed at suppressing the vote" in the upcoming election.

Other Election Day issues

In NBC News’ Election Day sleuthing of all that could go wrong, it reported that conservative media influencers and Republican political operatives in the all-important battleground state of Pennsylvania have been tweeting misleading videos and photos from polling locations and making ambiguous claims of election rigging. Several of those tweets have been shared tens of thousands of times. 

In one instance, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office debunked a tweet from President Trump’s director of election day operations, Mike Roman, which contained photos from separate polling places and the contention that “Bad things are happening in Philly.” The District Attorney’s office cut to the quick on the tweet, calling it “deliberately deceptive.” 

Reuters reported that the voting systems in Spalding County, Georgia, had also gone on the fritz. Local media reports said provisional ballots had been expedited to polling stations so people could still vote. “Remember, sometimes technology fails and breaks,” Krebs said. “It is important to recognize this process may require time,” Wolf added.

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