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J. Mijin Cha on February 8, 2007 - 8:31am
As we highlighted in our November dispatch, voter deception reared its ugly head again in the 2006 election:
- In Arizona, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund reported seeing three men approach only Latino voters and videotape them as they went into polling places in Tucson. Latino voters in Colorado were told they would be arrested if they attempted to vote. Virginia voters were also told they would be threatened with arrest if they attempted to vote.
- In Maryland, backers of the Republican candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate in Maryland went so far as to recruit and bus in homeless individuals from as far away as Philadelphia to pass out voter guides with misinformation about the candidates. The individuals were promised $100 and three meals for passing out fliers misnaming the two candidates as Democrats.
- Republican “robo calls ” that called voters and stated, “Hi, I ’m calling with information about (name of Democratic candidate). Only when callers listened to the entire message, were they informed that it was from the Republican party. Worse, if you didn ’t listen to the entire message, the caller called you again and again, leaving the impression that the Democrats were harassing you. In New Mexico, at least one call misinforming voters about the location of their polling places was traced back to the local Republican party office.
This Friday, a national gathering of political and civil rights leaders (whose main sponsors are People for the American Way and the NAACP, with Progressive States as on co-sponsor) will gather in Washington, D.C. to address this rising new threat to voting rights. A large focus of the meeting will be passing laws banning these kinds of voter suppression tactics, including Senator Barack Obama's federal Deceptive Practices bill, SB 453, introduced last week, which would:
- Make it a federal crime to communicate false information about the time or place of voting, the voting eligibility of any voter, or the party affiliation or endorsements of any candidate
- Allow any person or voter who has been harmed by false statements immediately preceding a federal election to obtain an injunction stopping the deceptive practices
- Require the U.S. Attorney General to investigate every claim of deceptive practices, and submit a public report on all claims to Congress
- Require the Attorney General to ensure the immediate release of corrective information in affected communities
State leaders need to step up and pass versions of the federal bill in every state, since, obviously, a lot of rightwing candidates are afraid of what will happen if people they have try to disenfranchise actually get to vote. For example, Indiana State Senator Jean Breaux has introduced SB 492 to make voter deception a Class D felony in Indiana and more states need to join the effort. Let's give them something to really worry about by passing these anti-deception laws in the states.
To learn more if you can't make it to D.C., listen in to the webcast beginning at 10am on Friday at: http://images.pfaw.org/homepage/votersuppression-live.ram