State Files Federal Complaint Against Those Believed Responsible for Voter Suppression RoboCalls

Complaint alleges "the Defendants were hired as political consultants by the political campaign of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr."

Fines Could Exceed $168 Million

A recording of the 2010 Election Day robo calls can be heard in the attached MP3 file. (Source: Office of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin)

BALTIMORE (November 10, 2010)—Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today filed a complaint in federal court against Universal Elections, Inc., Julius Henson, and Rhonda Russell, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA requires anyone placing a call using a prerecorded telephone message provide two disclosures: the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for the call, and the telephone number of such business, individual, or other entity that initiated the call.

The Complaint alleges that on Election Day, November 2, 2010, Universal Elections, Inc., Henson, and Russell initiated in excess of 112,000 prerecorded telephone messages to Maryland residents, the majority of whom were registered Democrats residing in Baltimore City and Prince George's County. The calls were placed before the polls closed in those jurisdictions and informed recipients that they did not need to vote. The messages violated the TCPA because they did not contain the two required disclosures.

The investigation revealed that Universal Elections retained, a Pennsylvania-based company that provides a variety of telecommunications services, including voice telephone broadcasting services on behalf of political clients, for the purpose of initiating and delivering prerecorded messages to telephone numbers in Maryland. The Complaint alleges that Henson and Russell uploaded the list of telephone numbers and a prerecorded message that was to be delivered to those telephone numbers. The prerecorded message stated:
Hello. I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.
The Complaint alleges that Universal Elections, Henson, and Russell did not identify the parties responsible for the calls nor did they provide a telephone number. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants omitted this information in order to disguise the purpose of their call — which was to dissuade registered Democratic voters residing in Baltimore City and Prince George's County from voting in the gubernatorial election by telling them that their votes were not needed.

Violating the TCPA carries a penalty of $500 for each violation. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants committed more than 112,000 violations. The Complaint further alleges that the violations were knowing or willful and asks the Court to triple the allowed penalties.

Source: Office of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler


Efforts to Suppress Voter Turnout Cannot be Tolerated, November 10, 2010

Copy of the Complaint, PDF Format

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