Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act & State Legislative Action
Unfortunately, current federal law is not sufficient to combat deceptive voting practices. While a few states have enacted laws to help combat deception in the voting process, most state laws are too ambiguous. Voters need clear and focused legislation that protect against these kinds of voting rights violations.
In 2007, then Senator Barack Obama joined with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to address deceptive practices by introducing the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act of 2007 in the U.S. Senate. Congressman Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) originally sponsored a similar bill in the House of Representatives-since his departure from Congress Representative John Conyers (D-GA) has taken the lead on the House version of the bill. The bill passed the House on a voice vote and passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, the Congressional session ended before it came to a full vote in the Senate.
Senator Schumer continues to be a champion on this issue and was joined by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) in reintroducing this legislation on December 14, 2011. This legislation prohibits communicating false statements to voters regarding election and voting information, false statements to voters regarding candidate endorsements, hindering or interfering with or preventing voting or voter registration and payment to individuals for not voting. In addition, it directs the government to disseminate corrective information in the event that false information is distributed to voters.
States legislatures must take action and pass similar legislation in the states to ensure their citizens are protected from these abhorrent violations of their voting rights. State lawmakers must categorically proscribe deceptive practices, for instance, by imposing penalties of for knowingly providing false information, including deceiving any voter regarding his/her eligibility to vote, the time and place of an election or even political endorsements. It is also important that there is a clear private right of action for impacted voters to provide an additional deterrent and give more resources for enforcement officials to go after perpetrators of voter deception.
In addition to imposing penalties and fines for knowingly deceiving eligible voters, it is critical that lawmakers ensure that a system is developed to provide affected communities with correct information immediately. Additionally, any legislation should include a private right of action allowing people aggrieved by deceptive practices to purse civil action for preventative relief, including injunctions and restraining orders.