WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today reintroduced their Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act to protect the voting rights of all Americans. Their bill, S. 1840, would prohibit individuals from knowingly deceiving others about the time, place, eligibility, or procedures of participating in a federal election or from intentionally hindering, interfering with, or preventing another person from voting, registering to vote, or aiding another person to vote or register to vote. The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act is an important component of S.1, the For the People Act.
“Intentionally misleading or intimidating voters are tactics that have undermined the integrity of American elections for too long. To this day, these practices are used predominantly to disenfranchise minority voters and they must end,” said Senator Cardin. “The rise of social media has led to even greater proliferation of misinformation, as evidenced during the 2020 election. Our bill would counter such deliberate campaigns, protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans.”
“Our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. Yet the freedom to vote is under attack in states across the country, and Congress must act to protect the fundamental rights of Americans,” Senator Klobuchar said. “During the 2020 election we once again saw false and misleading information spread with the intent to disenfranchise Americans, especially minorities. Any attempt to deceive and influence voters is undemocratic and erodes confidence in our political system. This bill would ensure that those who seek to undermine the integrity of our elections by deceiving voters face tough consequences.”
Examples during the 2020 election cycle include:
- In March, Texas voters received robocalls stating that the Democratic primary election would be taking place a day after its actual date.
- Communities of color in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and New York were targeted by robocalls sharing false information about how their data would be shared if they voted by mail.
- Widespread disinformation was targeted at Latino communities in Florida and other states, particularly through social media.
- Voters were met by armed individuals at polling sites on Election Day in Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana.
The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would address this problem by:
- Prohibiting individuals from knowingly deceiving others about the time, place, eligibility, or procedures of participating in a federal election.
- Prohibiting individuals from intentionally hindering, interfering with, or preventing another person from voting, registering to vote, or aiding another person to vote or register to vote in a federal election.
- Enacting criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years, for individuals who engage in deceptive practices or voter intimidation. Creating a private right of action for individuals to seek civil action for preventive relief against voter disinformation.
- Giving the Attorney General the responsibility for ensuring that states are taking adequate steps to counter voter intimidation and requiring him/her to, no later than 180 days after each general election for federal office, submit a public report to Congress compiling all allegations of deceptive practices received by the Attorney General.
- Emphasizing that voter intimidation by the spreading of false information is not protected under the first amendment.
Joining Cardin and Klobuchar in introducing the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). For additional information on the legislation, see here for a one-page summary. The full text can be found here.