People For the American Way Praises Committee Approval of Deceptive Practices Bill

PFAW activists will push House to outlaw attempts to deceive and intimidate voters

Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted to outlaw dirty campaign tricks designed to mislead and intimidate voters, tactics that continue to mar elections across the country. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas applauded committee approval of the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007 and praised the bill’s sponsors, Representatives Rahm Emanuel and John Conyers.

Neas released the following statement on today’s vote:

“Thousands of citizens are the victims of voter suppression tactics every election cycle. Such tactics deprive voters of their chance to make a difference and create cynicism that is destructive to our democracy.

“Widely reported examples from last year’s midterm elections include Hispanic voters in Orange County, California receiving letters warning that they could be jailed for voting, and African American voters in Prince George’s County, Maryland receiving a bogus ‘Democratic Sample Ballot’ falsely claiming that local African American Democratic leaders had endorsed Republican candidates for governor and senator. This kind of ugly campaign tactic shows up year after year, and it is long past time to put an end to it.

“This bill is a strong measure to combat deceptive practices and ensure that the individuals responsible for intimidating and misleading voters are held accountable. It will promote faith in our system by giving voters and election officials a way to take back power from dishonest political operatives.

“We applaud Chairman Conyers for his leadership in moving this bill out of committee. As the measure goes to the full House for a vote, we will urge all representatives to recognize the urgent need to act now to protect Americans’ right to vote before the 2008 elections.”

Neas said that campaigns to deceive and intimidate voters erode public confidence in our election system just as corruption and scandals do. He noted that voter suppression efforts have been tracked and documented in a series of reports by the PFAW-affiliated People For the American Way Foundation and allies such as the NAACP and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. (See our reports The Long Shadow of Jim Crow, and The New Face of Jim Crow.) As a co-founder of the Election Protection Coalition, PFAW Foundation has reported on deceptive tactics to suppress the vote such as fliers telling people the wrong day to vote or falsely warning that voters would be arrested if they had an unpaid parking ticket.

People For the American Way is supporting election reform efforts at the state and national levels. This month, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine signed into law a bill banning deceptive practices that was passed unanimously by the Virginia Assembly. People For the American Way worked closely with Congressman Keith Ellison, then a state representative, on the introduction and passage of legislation in Minnesota. PFAW has worked with state legislators in California, Ohio, and Texas on the introduction of similar legislation.

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