U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today testified in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on voter intimidation and election fraud. Senators Obama and Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007 earlier in the year. This bill would make voter intimidation and election misinformation punishable by law, and contains strong penalties so that people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the wrist. It would also address the real harm of these crimes people who are prevented from voting by misinformation by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time.
Calculated efforts to disenfranchise voters persist each year and during every election to achieve unfair political advantage. During the previous election in 2006, thousands of Latino voters in Orange County, California received letters telling them that if they were immigrants and voted they would be jailed. In Maryland, voters received fabricated sample Democratic ballots that featured Republican candidates for governor and senator. And in Virginia, voters were phoned by a fraudulent "Virginia Elections Commission" claiming they were ineligible to vote. There are countless other examples, and these practices must be stopped.
His testimony is below:
"It's hard to imagine that we even need a bill like this. But, unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to try to deceive voters and keep them away from the polls. What's worse, these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as minorities, the disabled, the elderly, or the poor."
"We see these problems year after year and election and after election, and my hope is that this bill will finally stop these practices in time for the next election."
"The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act 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. The bill also 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 these misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time."
"There are some issues in this country that are inherently difficult and political. Making sure that every American can cast a ballot shouldn't 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. As the members of this Committee know all too well, politics have colored some of the recent actions of the Department of Justice, so our bill includes a private right of action to ensure that individuals who are victims of deceptive information have legal recourse if an Attorney General turns a blind eye to these types of practices."
"As the New York Times stated in its January 31st editorial on this issue, "the bill is an important step toward making elections more honest and fair. There is no reason it should not be passed by Congress unanimously." I ask that this editorial be placed into the record."
"It's time to get this done in a bipartisan fashion, and I believe this bill can make it happen. I look forward to working with you, Chairman Cardin, Senator Schumer, Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter, and the other members of the Committee, as well as the many co-sponsors of this bill, to pass this legislation this Congress."