Registered voters in at least three Northeast Georgia counties, including Hall, received automated phone calls falsely informing them that they had to vote in Tuesday’s primary runoff election in order to vote in November, officials said.
Jackson and Banks county voting officials said they were flooded with calls from concerned voters who received the message. A Hall County board of elections official said the office got one call about the message.
Banks County Probate Judge Betty Thomas said the unidentified voice announces that they have received information from the registrar that they haven’t voted and that if they don’t vote Tuesday, then they would be ineligible to vote in the November general election.
And of course, that’s wrong, she said.
Thomas said the Georgia Secretary of State’s office was notified and was looking into the source of the calls, which came from an 800 number.
Thomas said there would be no way that information on whether a person voted in Tuesday’s primary runoff election would be available immediately, and that a person did not need to vote in the runoff to vote in the November presidential election.
"I don’t know if what they are doing is illegal, but they’re giving the wrong information," Thomas said. "It bothers me because of the mistrust it instills in the system. It makes people think someone knows who voted, and then makes them think they know how they voted."
The recording does not name any candidates or specific election, Thomas said.
The only race that the Banks, Jackson and Hall county ballots have in common is the Democratic primary runoff for U.S. senator between Vernon Jones and Jim Martin.
Jennifer Gearing, chief clerk of Jackson County probate court, said the office was "flooded with calls" about the mysterious message.
"It’s been a rough day," Gearing said.
Lynn Story, chief clerk for the Hall County Board of Elections, said the office received one call from an elderly couple who received the same message.
"Other than that, we haven’t heard from anyone else about it," Story said.
Georgia Secretary of State spokesman Matt Carrothers confirmed the office was looking into the matter.
"We are aware of this situation, and it is under investigation," Carrothers said. "We do consider this a very serious allegation."
Carrothers said he could not comment any further on the open investigation.
He said that anyone receiving the calls should notify Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office at 404-656-2871.