Home » Text messages with misleading election info hit voters in at least two states

Text messages with misleading election info hit voters in at least two states

Voters in at least two states have received false information about how to vote through text messages in recent days that appear to have been sent in error.

Courtesy Kansas Secretary of State’s office

The secretaries of state in Kansas and New Jersey warned Monday that voters had been sent incorrect instructions about where to find their polling places. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people received the text messages.

The messages appeared to have been personally tailored, with voters getting similar texts identifying names and addresses for the voters and purported polling locations, signed by a group called “Voting Futures.”

Both states recommended that voters visit their official elections websites for authoritative voting locations: vote.nj.gov for New Jersey and VoterView for Kansas. 

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the messages were a deliberate attempt to mislead voters or an earnest mistake by a third-party political group. At least one text message seen by NBC News that was sent in New Jersey on Sunday was followed Monday by another message: “We may have sent you a picture and address of a dropbox or early voting location, and that information might not have been correct.”

It also wasn’t immediately clear whether Voting Futures is a legitimate political group trying to get out the vote. A web search didn’t return a clear result for a political group with that exact name. 

A website for an organization calling itself Voting Futures Trust offers a bare-bones service that purports to tell Americans their voting locations. The website offers no additional information about the organization. NBC News emailed the address associated with Voting Futures Trust’s web domain asking for comment but didn’t immediately receive a response.

Movement Labs, a company that specializes in political text message campaigns, published statements on its website Monday from two groups — Black Voters Matter and Voto Latino — that appeared to acknowledge that text messages had been sent with misleading information about polling locations to voters in five states.

“In text messages sent on behalf of Black Voters Matter to Black voters in KS, NJ, IL, NC, and VA, we sent text messages designed to encourage voting that may have caused confusion amongst voters. We take full responsibility for these mistakes and have issued correction texts,” the statement on behalf of Black Voters Matter reads. “Specifically, in some of our texts, we sent addresses and images of drop-box locations when we intended to only include in-person early vote locations. In addition, we didn’t specify in our text that we were trying to encourage voters to vote early, and so many voters familiar with their election day vote location were confused and thought we were telling them to vote on election day at an early vote location.”

The statement on behalf of Voto Latino included similar language.

Black Voters Matter also posted a message on its website stating that “text messages have been sent to voters via our third party vendor, Movement Labs, which included incorrect polling place information. Movement Labs has acknowledged and taken full responsibility for the error, as BVM did not endorse these text messages.”

Movement Labs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Obtained by NBC News

Experts have warned that text messages that mislead people about how to vote are a particularly tricky problem. It’s not difficult for a malicious actor to hide where a text message comes from, and the Federal Communications Commission loosened restrictions on political text messaging before the 2020 election.

Kansans were targeted with misleading text messages this year in relation to an abortion referendum.

Scott Goodstein, who built the text message operation for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and now warns of the dangers of political text messages, said it’s possible the texts are a mistake by a group that took phone numbers and matched them to outdated addresses. If the texts were an honest mistake by a group trying to help people vote, he said, the group did a poor job of it.

“Just because you can do a digital match to a phone number doesn’t mean you should,” Goodstein said. “Because it’s suppressing some voters when the information is wrong if every piece of the data isn’t verified.”

Bryan Gallion contributed.

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Edward Wilson