The conduct described would be a felony.
Two men where just convicted of state crimes this week for very similar conduct in Ohio.
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman pleaded guilty to felony
telecommunications fraud yesterday. According to Cleveland.com, the
pair "placed thousands of robocalls with false information to largely
minority and Democratic voters in Cleveland in the months before the
November 2020 election." They face up to a year in state prison.
Michigan state law also criminalizes this conduct, which also violates federal law.
Other legal consequences that they face as a result of their conduct according to the same source include the following civil and criminal cases:
The men have been sued in federal court in New York City and face a
$5.1 million fine levied by the Federal Communications Commission.
Wohl and Burkman are appealing criminal charges filed against them in
Detroit stemming from a similar bogus robocall scheme targeting Black
As this blurb notes, Michigan itself is in the process of prosecuting these men criminally for part of the same pattern of conduct.
While it isn't inconceivable that these particular offenders may have some valid grounds for an appeal in the particular Michigan case that they are appealing (e.g. due to irregularities in their particular prosecutions), the validity of the statutes criminalizing this conduct is not seriously subject to question.
The First Amendment protects a great deal of intentionally false politically motivated speech about policy and political ideas or more generally why one should vote in a particular way. But, the First Amendment does not protect a large scale organized campaign outright intentional lies about the eligibility to vote of particular voters.
This distinction is explored, for example, in a 2018 law review article on political lies and the First Amendment, citing, e.g., Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191, 210 (1992); Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 788 n.9 (1983); Eu v. S.F. Cty. Democratic Ctr. Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 228 (1989) (“The State’s second justification for the ban on party endorsements and statements of opposition is that it is necessary to protect primary voters from confusion and undue influence. Certainly the State has a legitimate interest in fostering an informed electorate.”); Tashjian v. Republican Party of Conn., 479 U.S. 208, 220 (1986); Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 442 (1970) (describing the state interest in “avoiding confusion, deception, and even frustration of the democratic process at the general election”); Va. State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Va. Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 770 (1976); and Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 364 (1997).
Based upon these cases, taken as a whole, the author of the law review article concludes that:
In sum, many intentional lies aimed at undermining election
administration are already unconstitutional under the Fourteenth
Amendment, and if told with discriminatory partisan motives, also
violate the First Amendment.
But what about intentional lies told by private actors, along the
lines of the examples provided above (poll workers, campaign
volunteers, and the like)?
While such lies might be thought to be less coercive than government
lies, they also pose a serious threat to democracy. Although private
individuals must be guaranteed ample freedom to speak on matters of
public concern, I believe intentional lies meant to undermine the
right to vote may be regulated. The Supreme Court, albeit in another
context, has relaxed First Amendment rights when weighed against the
right to vote. Judicial deference is given to “generally applicable
and evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability
of the electoral process itself.”
Time and again, the Court, in evaluating various election
administration issues, has affirmed a government interest in avoiding
If one can prove that someone else orchestrated or conspired in the conduct, such as a political party, it and the party officials involved can have legal responsibility for this conduct as well.
One of the darlings of federal prosecutors, the mail and wire fraud statute, for example (the elements of which are set forth here by the U.S. Justice Department) would probably also apply to this fact pattern. This source cites some of the following authorities and recited their holding as follows:
United States v. Hanson, 41 F.3d 580, 583 (10th Cir. 1994) (two
elements comprise the crime of wire fraud: (1) a scheme or artifice to
defraud; and (2) use of interstate wire communication to facilitate
that scheme); United States v. Faulkner, 17 F.3d 745, 771 (5th Cir.
1994) (essential elements of wire fraud are: (1) a scheme to defraud
and (2) the use of, or causing the use of, interstate wire
communications to execute the scheme), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 193
(1995); United States v. Cassiere, 4 F.3d 1006 (1st Cir. 1993) (to
prove wire fraud government must show (1) scheme to defraud by means
of false pretenses, (2) defendant's knowing and willful participation
in scheme with intent to defraud, and (3) use of interstate wire
communications in furtherance of scheme); United States v. Maxwell,
920 F.2d 1028, 1035 (D.C. Cir. 1990) ("Wire fraud requires proof of
(1) a scheme to defraud; and (2) the use of an interstate wire
communication to further the scheme.").
The remedy that is not available, however, as a general rule, is to invalidate the election that was swayed by the illegal conduct.