Secretary Atkins advises campaigns to practice vigilance in voter outreach, avoid confusion
Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins today announced that she has concluded her investigation of the robocall complaints that were brought forward to her office in the last week before the 2016 general election.
The Secretary of State’s office and county clerks received a number of complaints from Oregon voters who were concerned and confused by these calls. The automated telephone calls stated that the person receiving the call may be marked as an “inactive” voter in the registration rolls and therefore would be unable to vote in the election. The calls then encouraged people to contact their county clerk to receive a ballot and vote. Many people who received these calls were, in fact, active registered voters and many had already received and returned their ballots. This caused confusion and frustration for many.
The Secretary of State’s office worked closely with the Oregon Department of Justice as well as our federal partners at the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate these complaints. Based on concerns of potential voter suppression, these agencies pursued interviews and worked to identify the source of the calls. Ultimately, while the investigation confirmed that many people were unhappy and confused by the calls, there was no direct evidence that the calls contained deliberately false information that affected a person’s voting behavior.
Given these results, the Secretary is suspending the investigation pending any future information coming forward. Anyone who has additional information is welcome to contact the Secretary of State’s office.
Although this investigation into possible legal violations has been suspended, the Secretary of State wishes to express strong concern that in the last two Presidential election cycles robocalls like this have caused voter confusion and concern. The Office of the Secretary of State counsels campaigns operating in Oregon to:
- Check carefully and consult with the Elections Division to assure yourself that your lists are up-to-date and targeted to an audience for whom the message is accurate, since sloppy campaign work can result in voter frustration.
- If using private vendors, make sure their lists are as up-to-date as possible and sourced only from election databases. The statewide registration database is a “live” database that is updated daily, particularly around election day and registration deadlines.
- Review carefully the potential applicability of federal “do not call” list requirements.
- Make sure to comply with any and all applicable disclosure and identification requirements mandated by federal law, the Federal Election Commission, and Federal Communications Commission.