Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have made names for themselves on the internet as vocal far-right conspiracy theorists and orchestrating over-the-top media stunts. Over the past couple of months, as the election has neared, the duo has worked to deter Black voters from casting ballots.
Wohl, 22, and Burkman, 54, reportedly created and funded a robocall campaign that placed about 85,000 calls nationwide falsely warning recipients that voting by mail could subject them to arrest on outstanding warrants, debt collection and forced vaccination.
Those actions resulted in multiple felony charges brought by the state of Michigan on Oct. 1 and a civil lawsuit filed last week. On Thursday, lawyers filed an additional motion for a temporary restraining order against Wohl and Burkman aiming to bar them from making any more robocalls before the election.
Via press release:
Two US citizens who made robocalls to purposefully disenfranchise Black voters must be ordered to stop, and monetary damages must be given to those who were affected by the robocalls, a lawsuit filed today against the citizens argues.
The lawsuit claims that the two citizens engaged in a coordinated and calculated effort to intimidate the Black voters, and under the Voting Rights Act and Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, the two citizens directly interfered with voters’ rights for the 2020 general election, which is illegal.
The litigation, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation v. Wohl,, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP are representing the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and eight registered voters in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants’ actions are racially motivated, given the contents of their phone calls and their targeting of communities with large Black populations. Many of the call’s falsehoods are based on systemic inequities that are particularly likely to resonate with and intimidate Black voters.
The case seeks immediate relief from the court to prohibit the defendants from engaging in additional voter intimidation robocalls before the election.
From Wikipedia’s entry on the Act:
This legislation was asked for by President Ulysses S. Grant and passed within one month of when the president sent the request to Congress. Grant’s request was a result of the reports he was receiving of widespread racial threats in the Deep South, particularly in South Carolina.
He felt that he needed to have his authority broadened before he could effectively intervene. After the Act’s passage, the president had the power for the first time to both suppress state disorders on his own initiative and to suspend the right of habeas corpus.
Grant did not hesitate to use this authority on numerous occasions during his presidency, and as a result the first era KKK was completely dismantled and did not resurface in any meaningful way until the first part of the 20th century.
Several of its provisions still exist today as codified statutes. The most important of these is 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Civil action for deprivation of rights.