FBI investigates vote-suppression charges in Virginia

Democratic voters say they're getting calls telling them -- falsely -- that their polling places have changed.

Published November 7, 2006 4:42PM (EST)

The FBI is reportedly investigating allegations that Republicans in Virginia -- where the race between George Allen and Jim Webb could determine control of the U.S. Senate -- are using misleading telephone calls in an effort to suppress the Democratic vote. Some Virginia Democrats have reported receiving calls telling them -- falsely -- that their polling places have been moved; one says he got a call in which he was told -- again, falsely -- that he wasn't registered in the Commonwealth and could be arrested if he tried to vote there.

Jean Jensen, the secretary of Virginia's State Board of Elections, tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she has discussed the allegations with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and that an FBI agent has contacted her for more information.

In a written statement, Jensen warns voters not to be fooled by the phony telephone calls. "Voters should not be intimidated or deceived by phone messages purporting to be from election officials," she says. "Any communication from federal, state or local election officials will always be in a written form clearly identifying the official source."

The executive director of the Virginia Republican Party said he's not aware of any intimidating or misleading phone calls and is "skeptical" that they're actually happening.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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