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.
People for the American Way has compiled a list of such incidents in recent years, ranging from Philadelphia voters being intimidated by people in cars with decals resembling such federal agencies as the DEA and ATF, asking them for identification; to flyers distributed in black public housing projects in New Orleans stating "Vote!!! Bad Weather? No problem!!! If the weather is uncomfortable on election day [Saturday, December 7th], remember you can wait and cast your ballot on Tuesday, December 10th"; to one I remember well, from Baltimore in 2002, which the wrong date was posted on fliers throughout black communities with warnings that you couldn't vote if you had any overdue parking tickets or even a late rent check.
You can read the text of the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005, S. 1975, via this link. Why not give your Senators a call today, and ask them to co-sponsor this worthy legislation?