Phone calls that come in the dead of night rarely bring a happy message, even if the voice on the other end of the line belongs to retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Thanks to human and computer errors, thousands of Nevadans were roused from sleep Monday when an automated telephone message asking voters to consider Question 1 next week went out at 1 a.m. rather than 1 p.m.
"This was inexcusable," said Greg Ferraro, principal of The Ferraro Group public relations firm and a member of Nevadans for Qualified Judges, a group hoping to change how district and Supreme Court judges are selected in the Silver State.
"This was a snafu of the highest order," he said.
Already fighting against the odds in its mission if polling results are any indication, the group hopes citizens are understanding, Ferraro said.
"Here we are seven and a half days to get in front of voters and tell them how important an issue this is, and this happens," he said.
The robocall company, Rancho Mirage, Calif.-based Stones' Phones, was fired after the mishap, which Ferraro characterized as both a "human and computer error."
"They are a reputable firm," he said, "but thousands of calls went out early (Monday) morning, and that is simply inexcusable. It's stunning to me."
And though the company was fired over the mix-up, thousands more automated calls went out later Monday -- during the day -- apologizing for the late night interruption.
Several people called the Las Vegas Review-Journal to complain, including an unidentified woman who said her son was in intensive care at a local hospital. She thought the hospital was calling to tell her that her son had died.
Ferraro said he understands the anger generated by the calls.
"I'd be pretty darn upset myself," he said. "Hopefully, voters will look at the issue objectively."
Pam duPre, public information officer for Secretary of State Ross Miller, said that her office had received several phone calls and that at least one co-worker was jarred awake by the robocall.
In response to those who said they are on the federal Do Not Call Registry, duPre said compliance with the registry is voluntary for election groups and candidates.
"There's no requirement they honor it," she said.
The registry addresses telephone solicitations, not campaigns.
Philip Mlynek of Las Vegas was upset enough to write a letter to the editor. Awakened at 1 a.m. by the robocall, he was steamed three hours later when he wrote: "You sure make up our household's mind on how to vote on this question."
Ferraro hopes the phone call didn't put a dagger in Question 1, which would move to a merit selection of judges with voters participating in retention elections a year or two after a judge is nominated by a commission and appointed by the governor.
"I'm hoping to mitigate the damage," Ferraro said. "I'm doing the best I can to let Nevadans know it was a mistake. This is stunning to me. I've been in this business for 25 years, and this is the first time (this has happened)."
Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.