Leading into the general election on Nov. 8, New York State Attorney General Letitia James is hyper aware of illegal voter intimidation targeting Black voters. Her office is committed to educating local Boards of Election (BOEs) and law enforcement agencies on how to ensure voters’ rights are protected this year.
“Even though this is a blue state, the reality is voter suppression happens here as well,” said James at a media roundtable on Nov. 1. “That’s why we have individuals out there monitoring the election as of the first day of early voting.”
Last year’s and 2020’s elections saw a swift increase of voter suppression tactics from primarily ‘rightwing’ groups.
James’ office filed against white conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for threatening Black voters through the Message Communications, Inc. platform. The pair set up a fake civil rights organization called Project 1599, and then harassed and threatened people via illegal robocalls to prevent Black New Yorkers from voting by mail ahead of the 2020 elections. James’ office launched an investigation after the discriminatory calls reached nearly 5,500 people in area codes in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Buffalo and Michigan.
The calls would erroneously claim that voting by mail would subject the voter to having their personal information used by the police to track old warrants, credit card companies to collect debts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track individuals for mandatory vaccines, said James’ office.
“We issued a civil case against the individual. We were able to seek injunctive relief and prevent them from sending out those robocalls in the future. And in Michigan, they were able to indict and convict them, and another state agreed to bring civil charges against them as well,” said James.
Ahead of the June 2021 primary election, James’ office filed a lawsuit against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections and its commissioners in Troy, N.Y. for purposely not providing early voting poll sites in the county’s Black, Hispanic, and lower-income communities despite constant calls to equitably expand in these areas.
In addition to lawsuits against racist perpetrators, James’ office launched the Election Protection Hotline that opened during early voting this past weekend and runs through Sunday, Nov. 6.
The hotline will be available to troubleshoot and resolve ballot box issues encountered by voters. Call 866-390-2992, submit complaints online to the Office of Attorney General, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1