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Monday, September 27, 2021

Bogus robocall tells Alachua County Democratic voters their ballots expired

<p><span>Nestor Garcia, a 21-year-old</span> <span>industrial engineer major,</span> <span>attends the early voting session on Oct. 22, 2018, at the J. Wayne Reitz Union to vote for the first time.</span></p>

Nestor Garcia, a 21-year-old industrial engineer major, attends the early voting session on Oct. 22, 2018, at the J. Wayne Reitz Union to vote for the first time.

A flood of calls came into the local Democratic Party office Wednesday after a robocall incorrectly told thousands their mail-in ballots expired.

The call came from Alachua County Democratic Party’s number but wasn’t approved by the office, said Cynthia Chestnut, the chair of the county’s Democratic Party.

Chestnut said her office paid to send robocall messages to less than 10,000 Democrats with Alachua County mail-in ballots, reminding them to bring their ballots into early voting locations before the voting period ends Nov. 3. While they got the message from her office, the same voters also got a call from the number telling them their ballots expired.

Chestnut called the fake robocall an attempt to “suppress the vote,” she said.

“It’s just to raise doubt in the mind of the voter,” she said.

Concerned voters who received the call contacted her office.

“We’re telling people don’t belated by this,” she said. “Go do your part, go out to vote. Don’t let them sidetrack you with these antics.”

The county’s Supervisor of Elections office is aware of the bogus call, said TJ Pyche, a spokesperson for the office.

It isn’t possible for a mail-in ballot to expire, Pyche said. As long as the ballot is received by the Supervisor of Elections’ office before 7 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 6, it is counted, he said.

So far, Alachua County’s Supervisor of Elections has processed about 21,000 mail-in ballots.

He said anyone who gets the call and has questions should reach out to the supervisor’s office.

“When those calls begin to introduce questions into our process and erode voters trust, we don’t appreciate that,” he said. “We want to make sure people have the correct information to vote, regardless of where they stand on political spectrum.”

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Chestnut said her office reported the robocalls to the Florida Democratic Party, which contacted the national nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union to investigate. The ACLU needs a recording of the robocall, Chestnut said.

Neither Chestnut nor the Supervisor of Elections office has heard of a recording of the message, as of Wednesday night.

Contact Meryl Kornfield at mkornfield@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @MerylKornfield

Nestor Garcia, a 21-year-old industrial engineer major, attends the early voting session on Oct. 22, 2018, at the J. Wayne Reitz Union to vote for the first time.

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