Robocalls About Warrants, Lies About Absentee Ballots, and Other Disinformation Targeting Black Voters Ahead of Election Day


People wait in long lines to vote outside of the Brooklyn Museum as early voting begins on October 24, 2020 in New York City.
People wait in long lines to vote outside of the Brooklyn Museum as early voting begins on October 24, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

With days to go until election day, there are increasing signs of voter disinformation and suppression tactics targeting Black and Latino voters. Just this past week in Florida, numerous voters in a heavily-Democrat county received disturbing emails that threatened them if they don’t vote for President Trump.

Now organizers in battleground states like Florida, Michigan, and Georgia are sounding the alarm that such scare tactics are likely to intensify in the coming week, and are flagging voters of color to recognize the misinformation as such.

“We’ve learned is that there was a bit of an education gap on what it really means to counter misinformation and disinformation,” said Ashley Bryant, co-lead of Win Black/Pa’lante, in a roundtable this week about the group’s work to alert Black and brown communities to the many insidious efforts to dissuade them from voting.

In the absence of education about what is happening, Bryant says people of color are often inadvertently amplifying many of the false narratives meant to chill their participation this election.

And the narratives are pretty nefarious.

“Some have taken the form of robocalls that harkens to folks being put on a national registry, warrants being flagged, people having to take the coronavirus vaccine that doesn’t exist yet,” Rai Lanier, an organizer with Michigan Liberation, said at the roundtable.

“There are folks pretending to be government officials coming from Supervisors of Elections offices who go on Latinx or Haitian radio talking about absentee ballots, saying that if your ballot is absentee then you are throwing your ballot into a tomb — so really saying that your ballot will never get anywhere,” added Santra Denis, of the Miami Workers Center.

Alongside seeding distrust in absentee voting, disinformation in Florida is also taking the form of radio hosts leveraging tensions between the Black and Latino communities.

From NPR:

Carinés A. Moncada claimed that a co-founder of Black Lives Matter practiced “brujería” — witchcraft.

“So you ask yourself, ‘Why are they destructive?’” she said, referring to protesters who support the Black Lives Matter movement. “Because they are vibrating with the devil. They are vibrating with negativity. They are vibrating with the dark.”

“And whoever votes for Biden, unfortunately, is supporting that,” she concluded.

By repeating the racist tropes on the radio, Ms. Moncada spread it beyond her 45,000 Twitter followers and into South Florida’s mainstream broadcast media, a worrying circle of misinformation targeting Latino voters in the nation’s biggest presidential battleground state.

As is the case with last week’s threatening email to Floridians, that purported to be from the Proud Boys but federal officials say originated in Iran, it isn’t clear if the disinformation is coming from foreign interlopers, domestic actors, or collusion between the two.

“We are just having to contend with the content,” says Nse Ufot, Executive Director of The New Georgia Project. “We are having to contend with folks who are not plugged into this every day, and who don’t understand that Photoshop has gotten really good.”

At this point, the main defense for voters in the lead up to election day on November 3 is to be aware of what is happening and to be more discerning about what comes in front of them and what they are sharing.

Basically: stay woke, y’all.

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