Voter-suppressing robo-calls reported in Wisconsin recall

Voters arrive at a polling site in Clinton on Tuesday to cast ballots in Wisconsin's recall election. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the recall vote. Opponents of Walker forced a recall election after the governor pushed to change the collective bargaining process for public employees in the state.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
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<i>This post has been updated</i>

As Wisconsin residents decide today whether Gov. Scott Walker keeps his job, reports have surfaced of automated calls instructing voters who signed the recall petition that they don’t need to cast a vote to oust the controversial governor.

Numerous voters said they received a “robo-call” telling them “if you signed the recall petition, your job is done and you don’t need to vote on Tuesday.” Challenger Tom Barrett’s campaign has been swift to respond to the claims of misleading information being disseminated by an unidentified group. But, the Barrett campaign had yet to produce a recording of one of the alleged robo-calls.

Mary Urbina-McCarthy, finance director of Barrett’s campaign, sent out a fundraising email Monday after learning of the calls.


“Reports coming into our call center have confirmed that Walker’s allies just launched a massive wave of voter suppression calls to recall petition signers,” she said.

Walker’s campaign released a statement denying that the campaign was connected to the calls. “Any accusation that our campaign is making those calls is categorically false and unfounded. Once again Mayor Barrett and his campaign are trying to falsely attack Governor Walker with absolutely no evidence. This is a desperate move by Mayor Barrett to avoid addressing his lack of a plan to create jobs in Wisconsin,” the statement said.

Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, is responding with a call of his own encouraging supporters to vote, regardless of what they have heard.

“I recorded a robo-call telling people, yes, you do have to do that, and we’ll be sending that to people who signed the recall petition so they know they do have to vote,” he said at a campaign event Monday in Milwaukee.

Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, said that the board has received “a significant number” of complaints about the calls and said he has “no reason to doubt their veracity.”

Meanwhile, the GAB is urging voters to ignore them.

“We’re telling people to be skeptical about information they get from robo-calls, emails, door-to-door canvassers, etc.,” he said. “Rely on information from sources you trust, such as newspapers, TV and radio stations.”


Barrett’s campaign is trying to determine the source of the calls, said his press secretary, Melanie Conklin.

The calls, and whatever influence they may have on the outcome if true, are sure to add to the heated rhetoric surrounding the recall election, which is seen by many as a warm-up for the national Democratic and Republican parties before November’s congressional and presidential elections.

[For the Record, 4:02 p.m. PST June. 5: This post has been updated to reflect new comments from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.]