Ben Cardin - Senator for Maryland

Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

Every individual must have an equal opportunity to live his or her life and fulfill the American Dream. This is only possible when the government protects the civil rights and civil liberties of every citizen. No one is above the law. We must strive to find a balance that allows us to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect our civil liberties while simultaneously fulfilling our solemn obligation to protect the American people.

Civil rights and civil liberties are the building blocks of the rule of law in our country. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect, but they had the forethought to bring this nation into being under the guiding principles that “all men were created equal,” and that all have the right to due process in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Over time, the Bill of Rights, along with the many amendments and congressional actions that followed, brought real meaning to the words in our Constitution. I am dedicated to ensuring protections against any form of discrimination, including race, color, national origin, disability, age, gender, veterans status, or sexual orientation.

At the core of protecting civil rights and civil liberties is protecting the right to vote for every American citizen. It is imperative that all Americans feel confident that their right to vote is protected and that those who would seek to intentionally deny any American his or her legal right to vote be held accountable.


How is Maryland connected to the national fight for civil rights?
We in Maryland have a special history when it comes to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.  In early 2011, we celebrated the 102nd anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.  The former chief counsel of the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall, grew up in Baltimore, but was unable to attend the University of Maryland Law School because he was African American.  He later went on to successfully argue Brown v. Board of Education at the Supreme Court, and then became the first African American to serve on our nation’s highest court.
What are “deceptive practices” in elections?  Can’t candidates say anything they want to get elected?  How would Sen. Cardin change current law?
Deceptive practices involve the distribution or false or misleading information to voters that are specifically designed to prevent an eligible voter from casting a ballot.  Examples include giving voters the wrong polling location or the wrong polling hours or day.  Other examples include telling voters that have unpaid parking tickets they cannot vote, or that if they have voted in a primary election they cannot vote again in a general election.  Most recently, “robocalls” and e-mails have been used to spread false information to voters. 
Deceptive practices are often targeted at minority communities in an effort to reduce those communities turnout on Election Day, which is a civil rights violation. These types of deceptive practices are not protected by the First Amendment, which covers free speech and political speech regarding the issues of the day and the candidates on the ballot for election.  Deceptive practices are used tointentionally prevent a voter from casting a ballot.  I have put forward legislation that would explicitly outlaw deceptive practices and allow the Justice Department to take steps to prevent the use of these practices and punish those who employ them in elections.
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