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Senator Barack Obama Testimony Before The House Judiciary Committee On Deceptive Practices In Elections

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Senator Barack Obama Testimony Before The House Judiciary Committee On Deceptive Practices In Elections

Obama Bill Would Make Election Fraud and Voter Intimidation Publishable by Law

U.S. Senator Barack Obama testified today before the House Judiciary Committee on deceptive practices in elections. Obama sponsored the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, which would make election fraud and voter intimidation punishable by law, and the Voter Advocate and Democracy Index Act, which would require states to report on their election performance.

His testimony is below:

I was pleased to introduce the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act in the Senate, along with my colleague Senator Charles Schumer, and others such as Senator Kennedy and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, and I am honored that my colleagues in the House, including Chairman Conyers, Congressman Emanuel, Congressmen Becerra, Honda, and Ellison, introduced companion legislation last week.

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, or the poor.

We saw countless examples in this past election. Some of us remember the thousands of Latino voters in Orange County, California, who received letters warning them in Spanish that, "if you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration."

Or the voters in Maryland who received a "democratic sample ballot" featuring a Republican candidate for Governor and a Republican candidate for U.S. Senator.

Or the voters in Virginia who received calls from a so-called "Virginia Elections Commission" informing them - falsely - that they were ineligible to vote.

Or the voters who were told that they couldn't vote if they had family members who had been convicted of a crime.

Of course, these so-called warnings have no basis in fact, and are made with only one goal in mind - to keep Americans away from the polls. 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 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 Conyers, and the other members of the Committee, as well as the many co-sponsors of this bill, to pass this legislation this Congress.

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