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FBI launches probe of Virginia pre-election calls

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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- The FBI is taking a preliminary look at allegations that some voters in eight Virginia counties received deceptive phone calls before Election Day, law enforcement sources said.

State election officials expressed concern about the calls Monday but said they were hesitant to launch an immediate investigation for fear of politicizing the vote.

The Virginia State Board of Elections notified the U.S. Justice Department and state attorney general's office on Monday, said James Alcorn, the board's policy adviser.

He said neither state nor federal officials were likely to "get involved" until after the election. The immediate response to the allegations was voter education, he said.

Alcorn said the state board had received a "handful" of calls and complaints about alleged deceptive phone calls made to potential voters. Jean Jensen, secretary of the board, said it had received two notarized complaints, one from a voter in Arlington and the second from Northampton County.

The affidavit from Timothy Daly of Arlington, provided by the Board of Elections, said he got a message on his answering service Sunday in which the caller claimed to be from the Virginia elections commission.

The caller said that it had been determined Daly was registered to vote in New York and would not be allowed to cast a vote Tuesday in Virginia. If he did, he would be criminally charged, the caller reportedly said.

Jay Meyerson, an attorney advising Virginia Democrats, said late Tuesday it was determined Daly had been the victim of a hoax. The Democrats notified the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, Meyerson said.

In another affidavit, Lawrence Baumann stated that he was contacted Friday by a woman who said she worked for the campaign of Democrat Jim Webb, who is running for the Senate against Republican Sen. George Allen.

The woman told Baumann that his polling place had changed to West Reed Street. Baumann told her there was no such street in his city, and "that if she was supposed to be helping Webb, she needed to give correct information."

The woman didn't give the correct precinct or offer to get back to him with that information, Baumann stated. She said she was calling from California.

The Webb campaign said it does not make calls of that nature. Jensen, the election board secretary, said that any such communication would come in writing from election officials.

"Voters should not be intimidated or deceived by phone messages purporting to be from election officials," Jensen said. "Any communication from federal, state or local election officials will always be in written form clearly identifying the official source."

By Tuesday, reports had come from voters or elections board officials in eight counties about similar calls, the State Board of Elections said.

CNN's Kelli Arena and Ronni Berke contributed to this report


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Virginia is one of the battleground states in Tuesday's midterm elections with a close race expected between Sen. George Allen and challenger Jim Webb.

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