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MI Supreme Court will decide whether election robo calls can be threats

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The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will decide whether election misinformation can amount to illegal voter intimidation.

Two conservative political activists, John Burkman and Jacob Wohl, are challenging criminal charges that they used intimidating tactics to deter or discourage Detroit voters from using mail-in ballots in the 2020 election. The robo-calls falsely warned voters that using information gleaned from their use of absentee ballots could be used for debt collection, forced vaccinations or to execute arrest warrants.

The defendants say the criminal charges violate their free speech rights. Their challenge also says they can’t be charged with intimidation because there were no threats of physical harm.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in June that the cases against the two men can go forward. The state Supreme Court is expected to hear the arguments sometime next year.

The men have pleaded guilty to similar charges in Ohio.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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