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On Election Day, Obama Introduces Legislation to Prevent Election Fraud PDF Print Email
By Press Release   
November 09, 2005
Link to Press Release
Link to Text of S. 1975

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) Tuesday introduced legislation to protect Americans from using tactics that intimidate voters and prevent them from exercising their rights on Election Day.

Obama's legislation, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005, 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 his statement upon introduction of the bill, Obama commented:
"It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.


"Think about the story of the 2004 presidential election when voters in Milwaukee received fliers from the non- existent ``Milwaukee Black Voters League,'' warning that voters risk imprisonment for voting if they were ever found guilty of any offense--even a traffic violation. In that same election, in a county in Ohio, some voters received mailings misinforming voters that anyone registered to vote by the Kerry Campaign or the NAACP would be barred from voting. Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only to keep Americans away from the polls.

"I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.

The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. And the bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes --voters who are discouraged from voting by misinformation -- by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed and intimidated voters with accurate and full information so they can cast their votes in time. Perhaps just as important, this bill creates strong penalties for deceptive election acts, so people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the hand."

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.

Obama's legislation is supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Common Cause, the Arc of the United States, the People for the American Way, the National Disability Rights Network, United Cerebral Palsy and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
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