Mysterious and "malicious" robocalls sent to Chicago election judges disrupted voting Nov. 4 and triggered an investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney. Now, the calls are being linked to a pair of Republican activists in Illinois, and party officials are distancing themselves from the messages.
Ahead of Election Day, an unknown number of Chicago election judges received robocalls containing false or misleading information, including directives to vote for Republican candidates. One call incorrectly told judges they must report for additional training; the addresses given lead to an empty lot and a clothing store, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
City officials have characterized the calls as “intimidation,” the Associated Press notes.
Election officials say the calls are the reason why as many as 2,000 election judges quit or failed to show on Election Day, leading to long lines and mishaps at the polls. However, they would not comment on what effects, if any, the robocalls may have had on election results.
In one of the calls obtained by WGN, a woman identifies herself as Sharon Meroni and says she's the election judge coordinator for the Cook County Republican Party. Meroni, a noted anti-Obama "birther," once filed 32 objections against Illinois candidates who failed to provide documentation of their citizenship.
Jim Parrilli, the 19th Ward Republican committeeman who ran unsuccessfully for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District seat, is alleged to have made two of the calls, the Sun-Times reports.
Neither Meroni nor Parilli could be reached for comment.
On Monday, the Cook County State's Attorney's office stopped short of elaborating on whether or not anyone had officially been charged with wrongdoing in relation to the robocalls; Director of Communications Sally Daly would only confirm to HuffPost that an investigation is ongoing.
James Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, also refused to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The Illinois Republican Party, meanwhile, has firmly distanced itself from the calls.
“We had absolutely nothing to do with [the robocalls] whatsoever," Andrew Welhouse, the Illinois Republican Party's communications director, told The Huffington Post. "That was definitely not anything the party had anything to do with, and in fact, it was detrimental to our efforts.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council have passed a resolution calling for hearings into the robocalls. According to DNAinfo Chicago, Emanuel said they intend to learn who paid for the calls and how they obtained the phone list for city election judges.