Suspicious text messages sent to Johnson and Linn County voters direct them to the wrong polling place (Updated)

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Voters cast their ballots at Horace Mann Elementary School in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. — photo by Zak Neumann

Update: According to the Secretary of State’s office, four counties have now reported text messages to voters providing incorrect voting locations, as well as texts claiming the Democratic primary is “tomorrow,” instead of Tuesday. Kevin Hall, communications director for the Secretary of State, said the affected counties are Johnson, Linn, Black Hawk and Winneshiek.

“It appears the text messages originated with one of the campaigns,” Hall told Little Village on Tuesday morning. “It doesn’t appear to be done with malicious intent.”

Hall declined to name the campaign or comment further, beyond saying that investigation into the text messages was still ongoing.

Additional update: On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary of State’s office said the same source had texted erroneous information to Polk County voters, too.
Voters in Johnson and Linn Counties are receiving text messages giving them the wrong information about where to vote.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert told Little Village he started getting phone calls on Monday night from people who had received unsolicited texts giving them incorrect information about their polling place.

“Right now, it looks it’s only Johnson County and Linn County that are getting texts,” Weipert said. “We working with the Secretary of State’s office on this. We don’t know if it’s directly targeting Democratic voters, or if it’s a candidate who hired somebody and it’s a snafu-type issue.”

Candidates occasionally hire outside firms to text information on where to vote as part of a get-out-the-vote effort, Weipert explained. Sometimes the information sent out is wrong.

All the texts reported so far have been from the 844 area code, which is an area code for toll-free numbers in the United States, Canada and any other country that uses the North American Numbering Plan.

“Both the Linn County auditor and I have researched the number, and this area code pops up as being associated with numerous phone scams,” Weipert said.

For accurate information on where to vote, Johnson County voters can check the auditor’s website or call the office, 319-356-6004. The Linn County Auditor also has a site with information on where voters can cast a ballot, or voters can call 319-892-5300.

Polls will be open for primary voters until 9 p.m.

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