False robo call targets Biden voters

In keeping with the national Democratic effort to shift the start of the presidential nominating calendar to more diverse states, Biden did not place his name on the ballot in New Hampshire for the Jan. 23 primary. But supporters here have been urging Democratic voters to write in the president’s name anyway, to demonstrate his strength in the first-in-the-nation state whose four electoral votes could prove crucial in a general election matchup against former president Donald Trump.

Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic chair who is helping lead the Biden write-in effort, slammed the calls as “outright election interference” conducted by “anti-democratic forces” in a statement Monday morning.

“On Sunday evening, I was made aware of an attempt to disrupt the New Hampshire primary with disinformation. Multiple people have described receiving a phony voice message created through AI that mimics the voice of President Biden, in an attempt to suppress their participation in the upcoming New Hampshire Primary,” Sullivan said in the statement. “These dirty tricks will not stop us from exercising our civic duty, instead they have only reinforced our resolve to write-in Joe Biden and stop Donald Trump on Tuesday.”

Sullivan told the Globe she heard from about a dozen people who called her number in an attempt to get off the call list.

New Hampshire has seen efforts in the past to disrupt elections using phone schemes; in 2002, Republicans jammed the phone lines of a get-out-the-vote operation being used by Democrats.

But as far as the imitation of Biden’s voice, “this is a new one on me,” Sullivan said Monday. “I’m very irate about it.”

Sullivan said she has already spoken with the New Hampshire Department of Justice, and officials there are “jumping right on it.”

New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella released a statement Monday morning acknowledging an investigation into the fake robocalls and saying that the “messages appear to be an unlawful attempt to disrupt the New Hampshire Presidential Primary Election and to suppress New Hampshire voters.”

He urged voters to disregard the messages and to notify the state’s Department of Justice election law unit if they receive the call.

Although the voice in the robocall sounds like the voice of President Biden, this message appears to be artificially generated based on initial indications. The message appears to have been ‘spoofed’ to falsely show that it had been sent by the treasurer of a political committee that has been supporting the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary write-in efforts for President Biden,” the attorney general said.

The Biden reelection campaign also weighed in, noting that the issue had been referred to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. “The campaign is actively discussing additional actions to take immediately,” said Biden-Harris Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez in a statement. “Spreading disinformation to suppress voting and deliberately undermine free and fair elections will not stand, and fighting back against any attempt to undermine our democracy will continue to be a top priority for this campaign.”

The Write-In Biden campaign also slammed the calls as “deep fake disinformation designed to harm Joe Biden, suppress votes, and damage our democracy.”

“We are confident that New Hampshire voters will respond by showing up to the polls and making clear that we won’t be intimidated by these dirty tricks,” said spokesperson Aaron Jacobs.

A number of other Democrats are on the Tuesday’s Democratic primary ballot, most notably Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson, but polling indicates that a vast majority of likely Democratic voters plan to write in Biden’s name.

Emma Platoff can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her @emmaplatoff.

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