Intimidation and Deceptive Practices:
In 2004, Election Protection received thousands of complaints about voter intimidation at polling places and coordinated suppression.
Police stationed outside a Cook County, Illinois, polling place were requesting photo ID and telling voters if they had been convicted of a felony that they could not vote. In Pima, Arizona, voters at multiple polls were confronted by an individual, wearing a black tee shirt with “US Constitution Enforcer” and a military-style belt that gave the appearance he was armed. He asked voters if they were citizens, accompanied by a cameraman who filmed the encounters.
Voters repeatedly complained about misinformation campaigns via flyers or phone calls encouraging them to vote on a day other than November 2 or spreading false information regarding their right to vote. In Polk County, Florida, for example, a voter received a call telling her to vote on November 3. In Wisconsin and elsewhere voters received flyers that said, “If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election.” Also, “If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election.” Finally, “If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you.”
Nationally, PFAW staff advised the authors of Senator Clinton’s Count Every Vote Act, a comprehensive bill that would make numerous electoral improvements discouraging partisan manipulation and deceptive practices. Similarly, PFAW staff worked behind the scenes to build support for Senator Obama’s Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act. PFAW was also a leader in pushing for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
At the state level, PFAW staff advocates for similar reforms, working with the National Network on State Election Reform. In Ohio, PFAW co-authored a deceptive practices bill that would criminalize any acts intending to mislead disenfranchised, poor, or minority voters about voting information, including election days and polling place hours. Working with a coalition of Ohio voting rights groups, PFAW’s Ohio State Coordinator convinced Ohio State Senator Ray Miller to introduce this bill, which he did on March 9, 2006. There has since been a sponsor hearing on the bill and we anticipate that a moderate Republican lawmaker will soon introduce a companion bill in the Ohio House, thanks to the outreach efforts of PFAW Ohio staff and coalition partners. The National Network on State Election Reform and PFAW have promoted similar bills in Minnesota and Mississippi.
The positions described here are held by People For the American Way Foundation only, and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire Election Protection coalition.