NAACP-Supported Legislation to End Intimidating and Deceptive Practices in Federal Elections Passes Senate Committee
Bill Aimed at Eliminating False or Misleading Information and Correcting it in Time for Full Voter Participation is Now Poised for Full Senate Consideration
Unfortunately, some people are so desperate to win elections that they resort to deceptive practices –misinformation and lies – to try to keep legitimate voters away from the polls or to support candidates whom they might not otherwise vote for. It is even more unfortunate that these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as racial or ethnic minorities, the disabled and / or the poor.
To address these undemocratic, disenfranchising and immoral activities, Senators Obama (IL), Schumer (NY) and others have introduced S. 453, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act. This bill, which has already passed the House by a unanimous vote, was approved of by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 6, 2007, and is now ready for consideration by the full US Senate. This bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes – people who are prevented from voting by misinformation – by establishing a process for reaching out to misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time. The bill also makes voter intimidation and deception punishable by law, and it contains strong penalties so that people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the wrist.
Examples of malicious deceptive practices were rampant as recently as the general election in 2006. In Orange County, California, 14,000 Latino voters got letters in Spanish saying it was a crime for immigrants to vote in a federal election. It didn’t say that immigrants who are citizens have the right to vote. In Maryland, misleading fliers were handed out in predominantly African American neighborhoods with the heading “Democratic Sample Ballot” and photos of black Democratic leaders – and boxes checked off beside the names of the Republican candidates for Senator and Governor. In Virginia, registered voters received recorded calls that falsely stated that the recipient of the call was registered in another State and would face criminal charges if they came to the polls.
It is unfortunate but true that S. 453 / H.R. 1281, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act needs to be passed now, before another election comes, more lies are told and more voters are locked out of the democratic process.