April 30, 2008 -- Misleading automated phone messages that have targeted African American voters in North Carolina have been linked to similar phone calls made in Virginia, say election officials.
The messages, from a caller who identifies himself as "Lamont Williams," tell voters to expect a voter registration packet in the mail.
"All you need to do is fill it out, sign it, date and return your application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard," says the caller with no additional identifying information.
North Carolina election officials and watchdogs say the calls are confusing and misleading, since North Carolina's mail-in voter registration deadline passed more than two weeks ago.
Similar calls went out to voters in central and southern Virginia before that state's presidential primary in February. The Virginia State Police, concerned that the calls could be a part of a identity theft scam, investigated and traced the calls to Women's Voices Women Vote, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan voter outreach group. The state police dropped the investigation after the calls and registration packets were determined to be legitimate.
"Whatever the intent, the practical effect is to confuse people," said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan election watchdog group. "This is a terrible time for it be happening."
Hall is concerned that the calls may discourage voters from voting during the current early voting period, where they can register and vote on the same day.
A spokesperson for Women's Voices Women Vote did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Transcript of the call:
"Hello, this is Lamont Williams. In the next few days, you will receive a voter registration packet in the mail. All you need to do is fill it out, sign it, date and return your application. Then you will be able to vote and make your voice heard. Please return your registration form when it arrives. Thank you."