Obama Introduces Legislation to Criminalize Election-Day Fraud
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) this week introduced legislation to protect Americans from tactics that intimidate voters and prevent them from exercising their right to vote on Election Day. The legislation builds on similar legislation he introduced last year by including specific language to address misleading fliers and harassing robocalls that occurred during the 2006 cycle.
The legislation, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2006, would make it illegal for anyone to knowingly attempt to prevent others from exercising his or her right to vote by providing deceptive information and would require the Attorney General to fully investigate these allegations. The legislation would also require the Attorney General, in conjunction with the Election Assistance Commission, to provide accurate election information when allegations of deceptive practices are confirmed.
"One of our most sacred rights as Americans is the right to make our voice heard at the polls," said Obama. "But too often, we hear reports of mysterious phone calls and mailers arriving just days before an election that seek to mislead and threaten voters to keep them from the polls. And those who engage in these deceptive and underhanded campaign tactics usually target voters living in minority or low-income neighborhoods. This legislation would ensure that for the first time, these incidents are fully investigated and that those found guilty are punished."
In last week's election, mailers distributed by Republicans in predominantly African American counties in Maryland wrongly implied that African American Democrats had endorsed Republican candidates. The fliers were paid for and authorized by GOP Senate candidate Michael Steele and Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich.
In House races across the country, reports surfaced of Democrats receiving dozens of harassing robocalls designed to imply that they came from Democratic candidates. In fact, the calls were paid for by Republicans and were intended to suppress turnout among Democrats. (The calls were thoroughly documented on www.TalkingPointsMemo.com.)
Obama's legislation would provide a criminal penalty for deceptive practices, with penalties of up to $100,000 or one year imprisonment, or both. The legislation would also require the Attorney General to work with the Federal Communications Commission and the Election Assistance Commission to determine the feasibility of using the public broadcasting system as a means of providing voters with full and accurate Election Day information.