RICHMOND, Va. — The FBI said Tuesday that it is looking into complaints that callers tried to intimidate or confuse Virginia voters in the hard-fought race between GOP Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb.
State Board of Elections Secretary Jean Jensen said her office had forwarded several reports to the FBI of voters receiving phone calls intended to discourage them from voting or directing them to the wrong polling place.
“If something is going on that worries and alarms voters enough that I’m contacted to look into it, I have a responsibility to do that,” Jensen said.
The FBI is checking the reports, agent Stephen Kodak Jr. said.
Voters in a half-dozen cities and counties across the state reported getting deceptive telephone calls in the days before the election informing them falsely that their voting places had changed, Jensen said.
According to a sworn statement filed with the Board of Elections, a man said he got a phone message from the “Virginia Elections Commission” telling him that he was registered to vote in New York and would be “charged criminally” if he voted in Virginia.
Another man said in an affidavit that he got a call from a woman claiming to be helping Webb. He said the woman gave him an incorrect polling place address after he told her he planned to vote for Webb.
“She then told me that I would be voting at West Reed Street<' said Lawrence Peter Baumann, a Northampton County resident. "I told her that there was no street by that name and that if she was supposed to be helping Webb, she needed to give correct information,” Baumann’s affidavit said. “She never gave me the correct precinct and never offered to get back to me with my correct precinct.”
Chris LaCivita, a consultant to the Allen campaign, said the calls did not originate with the GOP. “And it’s sure as heck not coming from the Allen campaign,” LaCivita said.
The Webb campaign said the calls were intended to confuse and discourage Virginians from voting.
“We’ve seen this tactic before and it is about time the Republicans learned that it will not work,” said Jay B. Myerson, general counsel of the Virginia Democratic Party.
New Mexico Democrats filed similar complaints in court, accusing GOP callers there of providing voters with incorrect information on polling locations in Albuquerque. A judge Monday refused to prohibit Republicans from calling voters.
In Ohio, a prosecutor also warned voters to be wary of fraudulent calls claiming that their voting precincts had been changed.
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