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January 31st, 2007at 11:42am Posted by Eli

Woohoo! Schumer and Obama read my blog!

Dirty tricks… turn up every election season, in large part because they are so rarely punished. But two Democratic senators, Barack Obama of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York, are introducing a bill today that would make deceiving or intimidating voters a federal crime with substantial penalties.

The bill aims at some of the most commonly used deceptive political tactics. It makes it a crime to knowingly tell voters the wrong day for an election. There have been numerous reports of organized efforts to use telephones, leaflets or posters to tell voters, especially in minority areas, not to vote on Election Day because voting has been postponed.

The bill would also criminalize making false claims to voters about who has endorsed a candidate, or wrongly telling people – like immigrants who are registered voters in Orange County – that they cannot vote.

Along with defining these crimes and providing penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, the bill would require the Justice Department to counteract deceptive election information that has been put out, and to report to Congress after each election on what deceptive practices occurred and what the Justice Department did about them.

The bill would also allow individuals to go to court to stop deceptive practices while they are happening. That is important, given how uninterested the current Justice Department has proved to be in cracking down on election-season dirty tricks.


[T]he bill being introduced today is an important step toward making elections more honest and fair. There is no reason it should not be passed by Congress unanimously.

It’s not perfect – I think a five-year sentence is way too lenient, and it’s unclear whether it addresses deceptive robocalls – but it’s a huge step in the right direction. These dirty tricks keep coming back because there is simply no deterrent against them, which is extraordinary in a country which prides itself on its democracy.

Not only is this bill excellent and long-overdue policy, but it’s also a great litmus-test vote: When the Republicans held Congress, they used it to force Democrats to declare themselves on gay marriage, civil liberties, and pre-emptive war. Now, having already forced the Republicans to declare themselves on the minimum wage, the Democrats are forcing the Republicans to do the same on election fraud – I can’t wait to see who’s in favor of it. Or if Bush is brazen enough to veto it.

(Now if they can just do something about campaign financing, voter roll purges, and partisan election officials… I know, I know. Baby steps. Democracy takes time, as the Republicans keep telling us.)

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics

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