PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is taking a hard look at a possible scam that’s been going around, directing people to different polling locations for this year’s elections.
Several Hampton Roads residents reached out to WAVY to say they received text messages from a company identified as “Voting Futures” telling them to go to the wrong polling location.
Many of them say they knew it was a scam right away, but they want to warn others not to fall for it and go to the wrong place.
Kevin Gardner from Isle of Wight County says he has been voting at the same polling location for the past five years. He says when he got a message saying his polling location was in Smithfield, he knew that was wrong.
“I’ve been voting since we moved here and I knew that’s not where I go to vote,” said Gardner.
In Virginia Beach, Judonne Baxter, received a similar message, saying she needed to go to a different location on Virginia Beach Boulevard. She says her normal polling place is on Indian River Road.
“I just know that that’s not where I normally vote; it’s actually quite far from where I live so I reported it and deleted it,” Baxter told 10 On Your Side. “Some people are more gullible and susceptible to believing misinformation and I just wanted to make sure that it was addressed.”
The City of Virginia Beach posted to social media about the text messages, alerting residents of what it called a “voting scam alert.”.
Both Gardner and Baxter said the messages included their correct addresses and also included a picture of the location they’re supposed to go to.
Baxter’s mom also received a similar message, but it was from a company named “Movement Labs.”
She believes they’re targeting a certain demographic and using trigger phrases to seem like they’re on your side.
“It’s really just unfortunate that people are taking these tactics to try to suppress votes because I really think that’s what this was,” said Baxter. “I think that they’re targeting a specific demographic and trying to give them this information. Hers was specifically mentioning black votes matter and also gave her incorrect information.”
Movement Labs released a statement addressing the confusion among voters.
“At Movement Labs, our goal is to use technology to safeguard our democracy and build power for marginalized communities. For the last month, we’ve been running an ambitious, effective, and complex program to encourage early vote and election day turnout amongst progressive voters. We’re proud to say that tens of thousands of voters have thanked us for sending helpful, accurate information that has helped them vote with confidence.
Unfortunately, in text messages sent on behalf of Voto Latino, Black Voters Matter, and Voting Futures to voters in KS, NJ, IL, NC, and VA, we sent information to encourage voting that has caused confusion amongst voters. We take full responsibility for these mistakes and have issued correction texts encouraging voters to verify their voting place with the secretary of state website.
This program relies on difficult-to-compile polling location data from multiple sources matched to individuals on the voter file, and we fell short of our rigorous standards with some of these errors, which we believe impacted around 10% of the voters we contacted.
Moving forward, we are conducting an investigation and commit to releasing a report widely summarizing our findings.
As a team of grassroots organizers committed to voter integrity and democratic values, we know that mistakes like this, when the stakes are high, have a true impact. We are humbled by this and will continue to work for democratic and progressive values.”— Yoni Landau
Messages like this have also been popping up in other states, like New Jersey and Kansas.
Both Gardner and Baxter say it’s crucial to double check your polling location, and of course get out and vote.
“If you’re not really active as far as keeping up with your information, you could easily go to the wrong location,” said Gardner.
You can always visit the Virginia Department of Elections to view your correct polling location.
Stick with WAVY for updates on this developing story.