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Cardin, Schumer Introduce Legislation to Prevent Voter Disenfranchisement

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Senator Charles Schumer helped introduce a bill that would prohibit voter intimidation and deceptive practices.

CREDIT: Flickr / Third Way

Senators Ben Cardin (Md.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have introduced a bill that would impose greater criminal and civil penalties for individuals who attempted to trick voters for political gain.

The legislation is an effort to crack down on misleading campaign literature like the 2010 Maryland “robocall” incident during the state’s gubernatorial election.

“Efforts to mislead and confuse eligible voters by distributing false and deceptive voting information and campaign literature is part of what seems to be a larger strategy to keep certain voters away from the polls,” Schumer said in a statement. “This bill will rightly make this shameful practice illegal and will impose strict penalties on those who lie to their fellow Americans through false communications to try to keep them from voting.”

The bill would prohibit the communication of false statements regarding election and voting information, such as poll location or time, within 90 days of an election. It would also prohibit mischief that interferes with voter registration.

“All Americans deserve the right to choose a candidate based on relevant issues and the quality of the candidates, not based on underhanded efforts designed to undermine the integrity of our electoral process,” Cardin said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke out against voter disenfranchisement earlier this week in a speech that analysts are interpreting as a gesture of support for similar legislation from the Obama administration. Schumer and Cardin first introduced similar legislation in 2007 with then-Senator Barack Obama.

Both progressive and civil rights advocacy groups have expressed support for a crackdown on voter disenfranchisement.

“Right-wing politicians and talking heads have aggressively pushed the myth that ‘voter fraud’ is a great threat to the sanctity of our elections,” said director of People for the American Way Foundation's Young Elected Officials Network Andrew Gillum in a statement supporting the bill. “However, the evidence shows that the real threat to our democracy comes from laws that discourage whole communities of people from voting and from devious voter suppression practices like those that took place in Maryland last year.”

(Read More About Voter Suppression Efforts at Campus Progress.)

And in Wisconsin, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint on behalf of individuals it claims are made unable to vote by strict new voter ID legislation.

Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.

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