Non-Profit President Responds to Robocall Charges
After six days of silence, Page Gardner, president of Women's Voices, Women Vote, defended the group and its voter registration activities in an interview with NPR on May 6.
Gardner said that Women's Voices registered 26,000 North Carolinians in time to vote in the primary. She said African-Americans make up 57 percent of all those registered by the group in the state this election cycle.
The anonymous robo-call that ignited the controversy in North Carolina was produced in 2006 and has been used regularly since then, she said. Lamont Williams is the voice-over artist who recorded it.
Robo-calls are one step in the Women's Voices protocol for registering voters: First, a letter to the state elections board, warning of a likely surge in registration applications; second, press releases to news outlets; third, the robocalls, alerting targeted likely voters that a registration mailer is coming; and fourth, the mailer itself.
"We're very proud of what we do," Gardner said. "There were four ways we were trying to tell people what we do. Three out of the four included our name. One did not."
She did not explain why the robo-calls did not identify Women's Voices, but said, "We are clearly looking at it, correcting it and looking forward."
Why did the robocall offend recipients in North Carolina, but not in other states where it was run? The run-up to the primary created "an operating environment the likes of which we had never seen before," Gardner said. "It's very heated, it's very intense, there are a lot of emotions."
The state attorney general is investigating the calls. The state chapter of the NAACP has filed a complaint as well.
When the controversy erupted, Women's Voices tried to pull back the followup mailers. The group says it had intended to mail 276,118 pieces and retrieved more than 178,000. It also postponed mailings in the five remaining primary states: West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, Oregon and South Dakota.
Gardner said Women's Voices, Women Vote was launched after she and her husband, Ron Rosenblith, spent three years researching the reasons that unmarried women voted less than other demographic groups.
In 2006, Women's Voices paid Rosenblith's firm, Integral Resources, nearly $800,000 for phone services. Critics have questioned this as a potential conflict of interest. Gardner said it was "an arm's-length, commercially reasonable transaction" that ended in 2007.
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