Press Release

December 14, 2011

Washington, DC – Less than three weeks before the first voters cast ballots for the 2012 elections, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) have introduced their bill to create tough new criminal and civil penalties for those who create and distribute false and deceptive voting information and campaign literature. Respecting provisions of the First Amendment, the 1 is narrowly tailored to apply to only a small category of false communications that occur during the last 90 days before an election, such as literature listing the wrong date or time for the election, giving inaccurate information about voter eligibility, or promoting false endorsements of candidates.

“Nearly 50 years after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, we are still fighting to ensure that every American’s vote counts,” said Senator Cardin. “The tactics we saw in Maryland and across America in recent elections are not new.  We have a moral obligation to stop these reprehensible activities that are aimed at keeping minorities from exercising their inalienable right to vote. All Americans deserve the right to choose a candidate based on relevant issues and the quality of the candidates, not based on underhanded efforts designed to undermine the integrity of our electoral process.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Senator Schumer.  “We must do everything in our power to ensure that this fundamental, constitutional right is not corrupted for partisan gain. Efforts to mislead and confuse eligible voters by distributing false and deceptive voting information and campaign literature is part of what seems to be a larger strategy to keep certain voters away from the polls. This bill will rightly make this shameful practice illegal and will impose strict penalties on those who lie to their fellow Americans through false communications to try to keep them from voting.”

The Cardin-Schumer Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011 prohibits deceptive practices in federal elections, creates a civil right of action and criminal penalties for violations, allows for corrective action by the Attorney General, and requires the Department of Justice to report to Congress on such activity. This legislation recognizes the power of Congress to prohibit racially discriminatory tactics in elections under the Fifteenth Amendment, Voting Rights Act, and the general power of Congress under Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution to regulate the “times, places, and manner” of federal elections.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that for four decades has been at the forefront of the legal struggle to achieve equality and protect advances in voting rights for racial and ethnic minorities and other traditionally disenfranchised groups.

“Misleading robocalls, flyers and online messages with the intent of suppressing the vote is the real fraud being perpetrated against American voters. I was proud to stand with then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007 when he first introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act and I’m grateful that Senators Schumer and Cardin continue to champion such an important law,” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Senator Schumer first introduced legislation to prevent deceptive practices in federal elections in 2007, with then-Senator Barack Obama and cosponsored by Senator Cardin. Details of the Cardin-Schumer bill introduced today follows:

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