Gansler sues over election calls

Keith Loria Nov. 15, 2010, 6:37pm


BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced on Wednesday that he filed a complaint in federal court against a company and two women for allegedly violating the state's Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Universal Elections, Inc., Julius Henson and Rhonda Russell allegedly placed in excess of 112,000 calls to Maryland residents on Election Day. The Nov. 2 calls contained prerecorded telephone messages that were placed before the polls closed to a majority of registered Democrats residing in Baltimore City and Prince George's County.

Gansler's complaint alleges that Henson and Russell uploaded the list of telephone numbers and a prerecorded message that was to be delivered to those telephone numbers with a message that the voters did not need to vote.

The recording allegedly said, "Hello. I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you."

Under state law, anyone placing a call using a prerecorded telephone message must provide the identity of the business, individual or other entity that is responsible for the call, and the telephone number of such business, individual or other entity that initiated the call. These alleged calls did not.

Since Universal Elections, Henson, and Russell did not identify the parties responsible for the calls or provide a telephone number, the complaint alleges that the defendants omitted this information to trick Democrats into not voting in the election.

Universal Elections retained Pennsylvania-based to make the calls.

Violating the TCPA carries a penalty of $500 for each violation. The complaint further alleges that the violations were knowing or willful and asks the court to triple the allowed penalties.

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