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Senators Obama, Schumer Unveil Bill To Outlaw Voter Deception And Intimidation Practices

With Recent Elections Marred by Allegations of Voter Deception, Senators Introduce Legislation to Criminalize Efforts to Lie to Voters

Washington Senators Charles E. Schumer and Barack Obama today introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007, which will criminalize efforts to confuse or intimidate voters in an attempt to keep them away from the polls on Election Day. The ObamaSchumer bill will make it a crime to knowingly communicate, within sixty days of an election, false information about the time and place of elections, voter eligibility and registration rules, and endorsements by a person or organization.

There are some issues in this country that are inherently difficult and political, said Senator Obama. Making sure that every American can cast a ballot shouldnt be one of them. There is no place for politics in this debate no room for those who feel that they can gain a partisan advantage by keeping people away from the polls. Its time to get this done, and I believe this bill can make it happen.

Efforts to deceive and confuse registered voters in order to keep them away from the polls are the latest attempt to suppress votes, Senator Schumer said. This bill will rightly make that shameful practice illegal and will impose real penalties on those who lie to their fellow Americans to try to keep them from voting.

Candidates for public office should hold themselves to a high standard and always conduct themselves in a trustworthy manner, said Sen. Cardin. Unfortunately, as we witnessed last fall in Maryland and elsewhere, that is not always the case. Campaign fraud and voter intimidation still exists in America today. Its unfortunate that a bill like this is necessary, but we must protect the voters and the integrity of our system.

In recent elections, there have been allegations in many states of voter intimidation or deceptive practices aimed at minority or lowincome neighborhoods. 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 ObamaSchumer bill 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 and create a private right of action for aggrieved parties to seek injunctive relief; 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 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.