Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, testified Tuesday morning at a full committee hearing to review S. 1994, a bill he is sponsoring with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to prohibit deceptive practices and voter intimidation tactics in Federal elections. The Cardin-Schumer Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011 would institute tough new criminal and civil penalties for those who create and distribute this type of false and deceptive literature.
“The use of deceptive practices and voter intimidation tactics are not new. I understand that campaigns are a rough and tumble business after having served in elective office in both Annapolis and Washington. What goes beyond the pale, however, is when a campaign uses deceptive tactics to deliberately marginalize and disenfranchise voters. Reliably, these tactics seem to target minority neighborhoods and are blatant attempts to reduce turnout. Such tactics undermine and corrode our very democracy and threaten the very integrity of our electoral system.”
During his testimony, Senator Cardin described some examples of deceptive practices that occurred since the last Senate hearing on this topic, which he chaired in 2007. “In 2008, Ohio residents reported receiving misleading automated calls giving voters incorrect information about the location of their polling places. In the same year, fliers were distributed in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia falsely warning that people with outstanding warrants or unpaid parking tickets could be arrested if they showed up at the polls on Election Day. In the same year, messages were sent to users of the social media website Facebook falsely stating that the election had been postponed a day,” Senator Cardin said.
“In the 2010 election, in my own state of Maryland, a political consultant paid for robocalls on election night to thousands of African-American households in the state’s two largest majority-black jurisdictions that said, while the polls were still open, `I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct . . . We’re okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.’ These Maryland robocalls led to several criminal convictions,” Senator Cardin added. “This particular case was prosecuted under state law but we must ensure that the U.S. Department of Justice has the tools it needs to protect voters in federal elections.”