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Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

State election officials across the U.S. are warning voters of a wave of unidentified robocalls and texts that suggest voters stay home.

Why it matters: The robocall campaign has sparked fresh fears that misinformation could spread on Election Day, targeting Americans' cellphones to scare them away from the polls.

The state of play: An estimated 10 million spam calls have barraged voters — especially those in battleground states — in recent days, according to the Washington Post.

  • Voters reported receiving calls with a short, recorded message telling them to “stay safe and stay home.” The robocall campaign began this summer, according to the Post, sometimes with an estimated half-million calls going out each day and targeting some voters more than once.
  • "The origins of ... the calls and texts remain unclear, reflecting the sophisticated tactics that robocallers typically deploy in order to reach Americans en masse across a wide array of devices and services," the Post writes.
  • Data from tech company YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking smartphone app, shows that voters in 280 of the 317 area codes in the U.S. have received the calls.

What they’re saying:

  • Federal Communications commissioner Geoffrey Starks said Tuesday afternoon: "I'm going to get to the bottom of this. Illegal robocalls and robotexts that seek to impact our elections are unacceptable."
  • Joe Biden's campaign spokesperson Bill Russo said of the calls: “We are aware of this issue and are using every tool at our disposal to remind voters that today is their last chance to make their voice heard in this election."

Meanwhile, state officials are scrambling to reassure voters in response to the flood of calls and texts.

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James announced in a statement that her office is investigating allegations that voters are receiving robocalls that are suggesting people stay home.
    • "Voters should rest assured that voting is safe and secure, and they should exercise their fundamental right to vote in confidence," James said. "We, along with state leaders across the nation, are working hard to protect your right to vote, and anyone who tries to hinder that right will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that some residents in Flint received calls falsely directing them to “vote tomorrow” citing long lines at the polls.
    • “Dearborn voters, text messages are reportedly being sent to trick you into thinking there are ballot sensor issues,” Nessel tweeted. “Do not fall for it, it’s a trick!”
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a tweet: “Lines across the state are minimal and moving quickly … and leaders across state and local government will work quickly to stamp out misinformation trying to prevent Michiganders from voting."
  • Florida Rep. Val Demings wrote: "False robocalls are spreading misinformation to try to silence your voice. Don’t be fooled: You must vote TODAY, before 7:00p (but stay in line if you’re in line at 7:00!)."
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also weighed in, tweeting, “Don’t believe the lies! Have your voice heard!”
  • Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen tried to reassure voters they would be "kept safe."

What's next: The FBI is reportedly investigating the robocall campaign, per the Post and Reuters.

  • "We are aware of reports of robocalls and have no further comment," the FBI said in a statement to Axios. The agency encouraged voters to verify any election and voting information through local officials.

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Early voting begins in Georgia's key Senate runoffs

Voters line outside the High Museum polling station in Atlanta, Georgia on the first day of voting in the state's Senate runoffs. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

People lined up outside polling places across Georgia on Monday for the first day of early voting in the state's two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: More than 1.2 million people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have returned them as of Monday, per data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

GOP-led Arizona board calls for end to election audit

Ballots are counted at the Maricopa County Election Department after the presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on Nov. 5. Photo: Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday urged the Arizona state Senate's GOP-led audit of its 2020 presidential election results to be called off in a letter Monday.

Why it matters: The letter underscores divisions in the GOP between loyalists of former President Trump and those denouncing baseless election claims, which saw Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) ousted last Wednesday as the third-highest ranking House Republican after speaking out on the matter.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
54 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.