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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, this year we witnessed a historic election, where the American people said loud and clear that the Nation is going in the wrong direction and things must change. One important part of that change is cleaning up our electoral process.

Dirty tricks are not a new thing in American politics. I am from Chicago, and my hometown has seen its share of political tricks. But some of tricks we have seen in recent elections astounded even those of us who thought we had seen everything.

For example, in 2002, the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee saw flyers advertising telephone numbers for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts that offered voters rides to the polls. The executive director then hatched the idea of jamming those phone lines on election day to prevent voters from getting rides to the polls.

He consulted the New England Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee, who led him to an associate who could handle phone jamming efforts, an outfit called GOP Marketplace. GOP Marketplace contacted an Idaho-based tele-services company that agreed to have employees place hang-up calls to the Manchester Democratic Party and the Manchester Professional Firefighters Association--the two groups offering rides--on election day, November 5, 2002.

As a result of these efforts, the New Hampshire Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote volunteers and employees answered the phones only to find callers who said nothing and immediately hung up. Legitimate voters who called the Manchester Democratic Party or the Manchester Professional Firefighters Association seeking a ride to the polls received busy signals.

The Department of Justice prosecuted many of those responsible for this dirty campaign, and some of the guilty have already served their sentences. These men were tried under existing phone harassment and civil rights laws. However, it is likely that the perpetrators of the next phone jamming effort will not be so ham-handed. General harassment laws may be insufficient to get at the next conspiracy. And even in the most recent election, we continue to hear about instances in which phone lines are misused.

That is why I am introducing the Election Jamming Prevention Act today. This bill will ensure that those who seek to disable election-related telephone communications will be criminally liable. This does not impede political speech--but this does stop nefarious efforts to shut down phone lines to cripple election-related efforts. From get-out-the-vote efforts, to voter education campaigns, qualified voters deserve to have access to information that will assist them in the exercise of their right to vote. Someone's ability to hire a company to place hang-up calls should not determine whether voters get the information they need to go to the polls on election day.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue, so I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in supporting this bill. I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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