WASHINGTON – Aiming to combat efforts to intimidate or disenfranchise voters, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) today introduced legislation that would prohibit and penalize knowingly spreading of misinformation, such as incorrect polling locations, times, or the necessary forms of identification in order to suppress voter turnout.
“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, who has been a leader in this issue since arriving in the Senate. “All Americans deserve the right to choose a candidate based on relevant issues and the quality of the candidates, not based on underhanded efforts to deliberately undermine the integrity of our electoral process. 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.”
“At a time when voting rights are being attacked and chipped away—from state legislatures to the Supreme Court—we’ve got to redouble our efforts to protect every Missourian’s right to vote,” said Senator McCaskill. “Misinformation campaigns intended only to suppress the vote and disenfranchise Missourians are crimes that run counter to our democratic values, and the punishment for those actions should fit the crime.”
“It is an unfortunate reality that in many places, including my home state of Alabama, we have seen concerted efforts to restrict access to the ballot box,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud to sponsor this long-overdue legislation to stop bad actors who work to undermine our democratic process and prevent voters from exercising their rights as Americans.”
“Protecting Americans’ constitutional right to vote should not be a partisan issue,” said Senator Leahy. “There are few things as crucial to the fabric of our democracy, and to American citizenship, as the franchise to vote. Efforts to disenfranchise Americans, such as voter intimidation or deception, are attacks on this foundational right. The legitimacy of our democratic government depends on all Americans being able to participate in the political process, and this legislation is an important step toward protecting that essential right.”
The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would prohibit and penalize intentionally and knowingly spreading misinformation to voters that are intended to suppress the vote, including the time and place of an election and restrictions on voter eligibility. The penalty for engaging in these deceptive acts would be a fine up to $100,000 and/or up to five years imprisonment.