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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Misdirected Calls Most Likely Data Error

George Wenschhof

Donna Kuzemchak
In the reactionary frenzy to the negative robo-calls to City of Frederick voters highlighting the failure of Democratic alderman-elect Donna Kuzemchak to pay her property taxes on time, rumors spread rapidly concerning calls that may have misdirected a few voters to the wrong polling location.

The robo-calls attempting to denigrate Kuzemchak were made on behalf of the campaign of Republican alderman-elect Phil Dacey.

Both candidates, would go on to win election to the five member board.

Interestingly, it was the local paper who first reported on May 14 of this year that newly announced alderman candidate Donna Kuzemchak had not paid her property taxes with an article and photo displayed above the fold on the cover of the newspaper.

I remember interviewing Kuzemchak afterward and her expressing disappointment they never published she had paid her taxes, despite several requests that they do so.

Immediately after the election, what followed the disclosure of the negative Dacey campaign robo-calls directed at Kuzemchak, was what began as a trickle of information about voters receiving calls misdirecting them to the wrong polling location.

The initial rumor had it the Dacey campaign was also behind these calls as some of the calls had been received from residents of Worman’s Mill. This was salacious, because as a member of the city board of appeals, Dacey had voted in favor of the developer and against residents in a dispute over a change in the proposed town center. Misdirecting those voters may have been advantageous to the Dacey campaign.

Not only was this information salacious, but if true, the rumor continued, might be a criminal offense and may be cause to remove Dacey from office, before he is even sworn in, paving the way for another candidate to perhaps take his place on the board. The Republican name heard most often was Katie Nash, who lost in her attempt to be a member of the board.

During the early days following the election, in this high tech world, sent to my cell phone was the recorded message that had been received from Republican alderman Shelley Aloi. No wonder they call them “smart phones”!

The fast growing and ever changing gossip now had alderman Shelley Aloi, who had lost in her bid for the Republican mayoral nomination behind the robo-calls that misdirected voters.

Well, it appears what happened is both the Republicans and Democrats inadvertently misdirected a few of their own voters and there was no apparent nefarious intent.

The Frederick County state Democratic Central Committee used volunteers to make calls to Democratic voters and at one point, off a prepared script, placed some to Worman’s Mill voters. They quickly realized they were giving the wrong polling location out when informed by the voters and quit making their calls.

Chair of the committee, Myrna Whitworth assured me they did their best to correct the calls, once they were aware of what happened.

Phone calling voters to get out the vote has always been present in political campaigns and this appears to have been an unfortunate event and very limited in the number of calls that were made.

The Aloi campaign sponsored robo-calls were directed at Republicans, highlighting she had been the only Republican elected alderman in the last election and the importance to get out and vote. The end of the call included a reference to their polling location.

In the case of the person who sent me the recording, it was the wrong polling location. Robo-calls are made by firms who use computers that work off of telephone numbers they have or are provided by the campaign.

When I spoke to alderman Aloi, she said it was a data error and to the best of her knowledge only involved a handful of voters.

As I mentioned previously, the errors made by Republican Shelley Aloi's campaign and the local Democratic central committee misdirected a few of their own voters.  This is not something they would aspire to do.

City attorney Saundra Nickols told me the city was looking into the calls that misdirected voters and that she had nothing further to say, other than the mayor may have something to say on this matter soon.

Having followed elections for a lifetime, one constant is voters complain about negative campaign mail and in recent years, about robo-calls.

Unfortunately, political operatives know negative spin and robo-calls often work and continue to convince candidates to use them.

However, it is the voters who have the final say.

Voters should not get discouraged with the political process. Let candidates know you oppose negative campaigning - stay informed, get involved, vote and make a difference.

Stay tuned..


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