CHICAGO — People throughout Chicago are receiving anonymous text messages that encourage them to vote Tuesday — but also include their name and, in some cases, photos or maps of their home.
The text messages come from various phone numbers that, when called, lead to nowhere — and recipients have not subscribed for them. The messages tell the recipient they haven’t voted yet and list their name, home address and a nearby polling location. They sometimes include a Google Maps picture of the person’s home or a screenshot of their address on a map.
The messages aren’t coming from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said spokesperson Max Bever. The agency — which governs elections in the city — doesn’t send text to voters, Bever said.
Chicagoans said the texts have left them annoyed, confused and, in some cases, concerned about their safety or worried about their ballot.
Kilbourn Park resident Alyssa Vincent said she received one of the texts Sunday and had no idea who it came from. The text said public records showed Vincent hadn’t voted yet — even though she sent in a mail-in ballot two weeks ago — and asked her if she will vote.
The message was odd because it “came out of nowhere and with no context,” said Vincent, 34. “I saw the map image and I was like, ‘What is this? This is so odd.’
“I know I voted, so I’m not going to engage with this. It did seem a little weird that they were like, ‘This might be where you live.’ That’s public information; that’s fine. But it was weird.”
Another Chicagoan said the text was unsettling because she’s been stalked in the past. She asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about her safety.
“I have been stalked and harassed at my home …,” she said. “It’s also just unnerving getting a text from a number I don’t know with my full location.”
That resident’s text message also said she hadn’t voted yet — even though she already voted by mail, she said.
“It made me extra concerned that whoever was texting me was not associated with the actual office,” she said.
River North resident Samantha Laughlin, 24, said she’s received five similar messages over the past month and finds it “really bizarre.”
Laughlin said the text messages included addresses she supposedly lives at — but they were places she has never lived. Some of the text messages have also referred to Laughlin as “Carlos,” she said.
“It’s more concerning why they’re associating my phone number with a registered voting address that I’ve literally never lived at,” she said. “Maybe if they somehow had one of my old addresses it would maybe be less unnerving, but I just don’t understand where they’re getting the correlation with my phone number and these random addresses and random names.”
The texts have come from at least three phone numbers with different area codes. If someone calls the numbers, they get a message saying the call cannot be completed.
A resident who received one of the texts sent a message back to ask for information about the messages. The respondent said they are a volunteer with Voting Futures, a nonprofit “dedicated to ensuring every eligible voter is registered and participating in democracy.”
A group by that name does not appear in the IRS’ database of tax-exempt groups.
The person responding to the texts who identified as a volunteer sent a link to a rarely updated Facebook page with few followers and little information about the group. And a website for the Voting Futures Trust has no information about the group.
Voting Futures didn’t respond to request for comment.
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