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Court debates free speech protections against election lies – including Trump’s

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Viviano called the tactics Burkman and Wohl are accused of using to try to help Trump by suppressing African-American votes “despicable,” but the judge said the court should be concerned about the extent of the law aimed at banning elections. deception.

Viviano noted that the law used to charge the two men not only prohibits the use of “corrupt means or devices” to “dissuade” someone from voting. It also prohibits the use of this type of ploy simply to “influence” a voter. Any sort of misleading or false statements made during an election could fit that definition, said the judge, appointed by former GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

Michigan Deputy Solicitor General Eric Restuccia said the law only prohibits false statements about the voting process and not those that impact candidate support.

“This is not a law designed to stop political debate,” Restuccia said. “False or misleading information about voting procedures is not protected by the Constitution.”

Viviano did not seem satisfied with the prosecutor’s answers. “I have to say: I just see you veering off in different directions,” said the judge, who said he was trying to be “bipartisan” in flagging concerns about prosecutors’ control of political rhetoric.

It was not immediately clear how many other judges on the court shared Viviano’s concerns, although at least one of them joined the pressure on the state’s lawyer to he answers Viviano’s questions. The court currently has four Democratic and three Republican members.

A lawyer for Burkman, Timothy Doman, said the state could prohibit knowing lies about the mechanics of voting, but that the language of the law used to charge his client is too murky.

“Misrepresentations about the time, place and manner (of voting) could be prohibited in the manner that the attorney general has advocated,” Doman said. “The problem is: It’s not that law.”

According to court documents, Burkman and Wohl paid a vendor to make approximately 85,000 robocalls during the summer of 2020, targeting Black voters in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York .

“Vote by mail sounds great, but did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to find old warrants and used by mail companies credit cards to collect unpaid debts. debts?” the recording said. “The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is even pushing to use mail-in voting records to track people for mandatory vaccines. Don’t be forced to give your private information to the man.Stay safe and beware of mail-in voting.

Last year, Burkman and Wohl pleaded guilty in Ohio to similar charges stemming from the same wave of calls. They were each sentenced to two years of probation, fined $2,500, and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service for voter registration in Washington, DC.

In 2021, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $5.1 million fine against Burkman and Wohl for allegedly transmitting more than 1,100 calls to cell phones without owners’ consent.

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