Leahy And Others Introduce Bill To Penalize Voter Intimidation And Efforts To Suppress the Vote With False Information

Aiming to combat efforts to intimidate or disenfranchise voters, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) Thursday introduced legislation to prohibit and penalize knowingly spreading of misinformation, such as incorrect polling locations, times, or the necessary forms of identification in order to suppress voter turnout.

Leahy said: “Protecting Americans’ constitutional right to vote should not be a partisan issue.  There are few things as crucial to the fabric of our democracy, and to American citizenship, as the franchise to vote. Efforts to disenfranchise Americans, such as voter intimidation or deception, are attacks on this foundational right. The legitimacy of our democratic government depends on all Americans being able to participate in the political process, and this legislation is an important step toward protecting that essential right.”

McCaskill, chief sponsor of the bill, said:  “At a time when voting rights are being attacked and chipped away—from state legislatures to the Supreme Court—we’ve got to redouble our efforts to protect every Missourian’s right to vote.  Misinformation campaigns intended only to suppress the vote and disenfranchise Missourians are crimes that run counter to our democratic values, and the punishment for those actions should fit the crime.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Leahy is a leading member.

The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would prohibit and penalize intentionally and knowingly spreading misinformation to voters that are intended to suppress the vote, including the time and place of an election and restrictions on voter eligibility. The penalty for engaging in these deceptive acts would be a fine up to $100,000 and/or up to five years imprisonment.

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