Senate Committee Passes Schumer Bill To Clamp Down On Voter Deception And Stiffen Penalties For Intimidation
With Past Elections Marred by Allegations of Voter Deception, Bill Increases Penalties for Those Who Intimidate VotersFor the First Time, Criminalizes the Dissemination of False Information
WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Charles E. Schumer (DNY) announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007, landmark legislation he coauthored with Senator Barack Obama (DIL.) The bill would criminalize efforts to deceive voters in an attempt to keep them away from the polls on Election Day, and will increase penalties for voter intimidation. The bill will make it a crime to knowingly communicate, within sixty days of an election and with the intent to prevent a person from voting, false information about the time and place of elections, voter eligibility and registration rules, and endorsements by a person or organization.
"The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy," Schumer said. "We must do everything in our power to ensure that this fundamental, constitutional right is not corrupted for partisan gain. Efforts to deceive and confuse eligible, registered voters to keep them away from the polls are just the latest attempt to suppress votes. This bill will rightly make this shameful practice illegal and will impose real penalties on those who lie to their fellow Americans to try to keep them from voting."
In recent elections, misleading fliers were distributed in states from California to Maryland, frequently targeting immigrant, minority, and lowincome neighborhoods, and often providing outright false information. These efforts were seen as deliberate attempts to provide inaccurate election information in order to prevent voters from casting ballots on Election Day.
In order to put an end to deceptive practices, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would:
· Criminalize deceptive practices in elections, with penalties of up to $100,000 or five years imprisonment, or both;
· Increase the maximum criminal penalty for voter intimidation from one year to five years' imprisonment;
· Provide for civil enforcement of the ban on deceptive practices;
· Require the Attorney General, after each federal election, to report to Congress on the allegations of deceptive practices, the actions taken to correct deceptive practices, and any prosecutions resulting from allegations of deceptive practices.
The bill would further stipulate that the government take proactive measures to counteract deceptive practices by:
- Requiring the Department of Justice to provide voters with accurate election information when allegations of certain deceptive practices are confirmed;
- Requiring the Attorney General to develop ways to disseminate corrective election information, in consultation with civil rights organizations, voter protection groups, state and local election officials, and other interested community organizations; and
- Requiring the Attorney General, with the Federal Communications Commission and the Election Assistance Commission, to study the feasibility of using public broadcast systems to provide corrective election information.
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