People For the American Way (PFAW) President Ralph G. Neas today commended the introduction of the “Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act” by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, saying the measure deserves immediate attention from members in both chambers of Congress. Representatives Rahm Emanuel, Rush Holt, Xavier Becerra, Mike Honda, and Keith Ellison are the principal cosponsors of the legislation. Senators Barack Obama and Charles Schumer introduced the Senate version of the bill in January, along with a strong list of original cosponsors.
Following introduction of the House bill, Neas issued the following statement:
“Deceptive practices are a disgrace to the voting process. It is simply unacceptable for political operatives to lie to voters, telling them to vote on the wrong day, or go to the wrong polling place. It’s just plain wrong to distribute flyers that attempt to trick voters with fake endorsements and misleading information, or send letters to Hispanic voters saying they’ll be arrested if they go to the polls. It’s wrong to allow political parties to make automated telephone calls to voters day and night, over and over, with false information about candidates or issues.
“Yet that’s been the reality in our past three federal elections. Tens of thousands of voters have been the target of despicable, vicious tricks intended to keep them away from the polls or change their votes based on lies. It’s got to stop—and with the passage of this critical bill, we will be one step closer to that goal.
“The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act will give members of Congress the opportunity to defend the basic rights of American voters. The bill includes strong provisions requiring the Department of Justice to immediately provide voters with accurate election information when allegations of deceptive practices are confirmed. It makes deceptive practices a felony that carries a penalty of up to $250,000 or five years in prison, and increases the criminal penalty for voter intimidation to five years imprisonment.
“The most vulnerable among us deserve these basic legal protections. Congress must act immediately to safeguard the integrity of our elections and preserve the most fundamental right in our democratic system—the right to vote. We strongly urge the members of the House to support this bill. Nothing less than integrity and fairness in the 2008 elections is at stake."
PFAW and its affiliate, PFAW Foundation, are supporting the Conyers bill in the House and the Obama bill in the Senate as part of their work in the Democracy Campaign to promote election reform and fair elections on the local, state and federal level. For more information on deceptive practices and voter intimidation, see People For the American Way Foundation’s reports: The Long Shadow of Jim Crow, and The New Face of Jim Crow.