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Deceptive Voter Practices Cannot Be Tolerated

Intentionally misleading information about elections, voter intimidation and robocalls often aim to deprive minority communities their voice in our democracy.

Voter suppression and intimidation are still very much alive in our nation. From misleading and fraudulent information about elections to voter intimidation and robocalls designed to suppress the vote, deceptive voting practices are often aimed at depriving minority communities of their voice in our democracy. The United States Constitution guarantees and protects the right of every American citizen to vote, and we have a duty to protect and ensure that right.

Unfortunately, we have seen a resurgence of deceptive voter practices in recent years. In 2006, during my own election to the U.S. Senate, thousands of minority voters in Maryland were targeted for misleading information designed to suppress their vote. Nationwide, there have been numerous reports of efforts to suppress the minority vote by putting out wrong information about election dates and location of polling places, along with suggestions that voters who had outstanding parking tickets would be arrested if they tried to vote.

To put an end to this type of deceptive voter practice, I recently joined with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in re-introducing the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011This bill is designed to protect voters across the nation from election fraud and voter intimidation by creating criminal penalties for deceptive voting practices and by giving individual voters the right to take action.

Our bill would specifically allow for criminal penalties of up to $100,000 and up to five years imprisonment for those found guilty of deceptive campaign practices. If deceptive practices are found to have occurred before Election Day, the U.S. Attorney General can take corrective action to halt distribution of such information and to set the record straight. After federal elections, the Attorney General also would be required to report to Congress on the allegations of deceptive practices and the actions taken to correct such practices.

Deceptive voter practices are not pranks and they threaten our democracy. Since the end of the Civil War, there have been numerous efforts to ensure the right to vote for all citizens. In 1870, Congress ratified the 15th Amendment to the Constitution stating “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race [or] color. ...” The Amendment also gave Congress power to enforce the article by “appropriate” legislative action.

Unfortunately, for another 100 years African Americans faced poll taxes, literacy tests and outright harassment and violence when they attempted to vote. It took the passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to end the discrimination of Jim Crow laws and regulations denying African Americans their full voting rights.

Deceptive voting practices are not a matter of free speech or a First Amendment right. In reality, such practices threaten the very integrity of our electoral process by attempting to rob voters of their right to vote. It is time for Congress to act once again to put an end to tactics that are deliberately intended to suppress or mislead voters.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael Brown March 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I hear the concern about voter integrity but have not discovered the basis. With just a few hours of research on the web, I found that every claim of widespread voter fraud has been disproved. It turns out that very little of the actual voter fraud can be resolved by voter photo ID. Of greater concern is election fraud and registration fraud for which photo ID's play no role. So, there is a small problem that clearly agitates some people. What is the cost of the solution? We will pay that cost with our taxes and any time required of us to meet the new laws. It will also increase government. I hope that the solution doesn't depend on Maryland's driver's license, because we all know that most of Maryland's individual driver's licenses do not meet federal standards for identification (RealId). Maryland is known to have issued driver's licenses to non-citizens. What's the downside, besides cost? Nearly 30% of the elderly do not have a valid driver's license. Nearly 13% of the poor have no photo ID's. Over 10% of Hispanic Americans and African-Americans do not have photo-IDs. I got it, we will require all of them to get an approved photo ID. Are we going to require them to pay for this? You pay it or we won't let you vote? What bureaucracy is going to manage this? Disenfranchising valid American voters due to fears founded on rumors proven untrue seems a poor platform for any political party. It almost seems like an organized attempt at election fraud.
MocoLoco March 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Here we go again with inflated figures. 30% of elderly don't have *valid* driver's licence? I would gladly concede that expired driver's licenses should be accepted for voting purposes. The elderly are voting, not driving. Look---I 'm not saying that other problems don't exist. I'm saying that you shouldn't decline to add integrity to our voting process in this manner by pointing to other areas for improvement.
Corbin Dallas Multipass March 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
"I'm not saying that other problems don't exist. I'm saying that you shouldn't decline to add integrity to our voting process in this manner by pointing to other areas for improvement." Part of voting integrity is making sure those who should be allowed to vote are not turned away at the polls. If instating ID laws decreases valid voters from casting ballots in greater percentages than it prevents fraudulent voting, then it is a net loss to integrity overall. So saying you shouldn't decline to add integrity is all well and good, but the response is that isn't what you'd actually be doing. I've pointed out that based on Election Integrity Maryland's numbers the impact of Voter Identification would be very low, so it is very possible you'd be disenfranchising more than you'd be preventing fraud. Michael Brown, it would be great if you could cite your numbers.
Michael Brown March 04, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I based my comments on the following: "2008 Survey of the Performance of American Elections"; Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project; the "Final Report includes all of the tables - available at http://vote.caltech.edu/drupal/node/231 The Dead South Carolina investigation of the dead voting; Election Commission letter to govenor available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/82569617/2012-02-21-Alan-Wilson-Fraud-Investigation Lack of IDs "The Disproportionate Impact of Voter-ID Requirements on the Electorate—New Evidence from Indiana" available at http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/documents/Indiana_voter.pdf. The National Commission on Federal Election Reform, To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process, (2001), available at http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/election2000/electionreformrpt0801.pdf Voter Id Requirements And The Disenfranchisements Of Latino, Black And Asian Voters (2007), available at http://faculty.washington.edu/mbarreto/research/Voter_ID_APSA.pdf. "The Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin 4-5 (2005)", available at http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/ETI/barriers/DriversLicense.pdf. Costs "The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say"; available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/2f0860fb73fd559359_zzm6bhnld.pdf Current Maryland Voter ID requirements available at http://www.866ourvote.org/state?id=0041 Maryland Census Data available at http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/24000.html
Michael Brown March 04, 2012 at 04:23 AM
As you will discover, should you actually read the citations I identified, I did indeed round my numbers up, so MocoLoco may be correct, the numbers may be inflated. Or not. The problem with all of the data is they are based on specific results from studies over the past 10 years. What the actual numbers for any given state, county, or precinct is likely to be different. The 2001 National Commission on Federal Election Reform report (cited above) estimated that 8% of registered voters do not have a driver's license. It did not address how many licenses are valid. Apparently a lot of people don't update their paperwork when they move (3.6%) or get married (1.3%). And some let their driver's licenses expire (2%) see Caltech/MIT survey. That totals to 14.9%. So, given the registered voter number Corbin stated (573,431) that would mean 85,441 (no rounding) eligible Montgomery County voters being ineligible to vote. This will impact the elderly, the poor, and minorities more than the white middleclass < 65 demographic. Also, Maryland does not ensure citizenship to get a license. The only point of these numbers is that the decision to rush to require voter photo IDs will disenfranchise a lot of Americans that don't deserve to lose their right to vote. Most of "voter fraud" has proven to be issues with the maintenance of the voter rolls - that can be fixed without disenfranchising valid voters.

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