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Deceptive Voter Practices Cannot Be Tolerated

Intentionally misleading information about elections, voter intimidation and robocalls often aim to deprive minority communities their voice in our democracy.

Voter suppression and intimidation are still very much alive in our nation. From misleading and fraudulent information about elections to voter intimidation and robocalls designed to suppress the vote, deceptive voting practices are often aimed at depriving minority communities of their voice in our democracy. The United States Constitution guarantees and protects the right of every American citizen to vote, and we have a duty to protect and ensure that right.

Unfortunately, we have seen a resurgence of deceptive voter practices in recent years. In 2006, during my own election to the U.S. Senate, thousands of minority voters in Maryland were targeted for misleading information designed to suppress their vote. Nationwide, there have been numerous reports of efforts to suppress the minority vote by putting out wrong information about election dates and location of polling places, along with suggestions that voters who had outstanding parking tickets would be arrested if they tried to vote.

To put an end to this type of deceptive voter practice, I recently joined with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in re-introducing the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011This bill is designed to protect voters across the nation from election fraud and voter intimidation by creating criminal penalties for deceptive voting practices and by giving individual voters the right to take action.

Our bill would specifically allow for criminal penalties of up to $100,000 and up to five years imprisonment for those found guilty of deceptive campaign practices. If deceptive practices are found to have occurred before Election Day, the U.S. Attorney General can take corrective action to halt distribution of such information and to set the record straight. After federal elections, the Attorney General also would be required to report to Congress on the allegations of deceptive practices and the actions taken to correct such practices.

Deceptive voter practices are not pranks and they threaten our democracy. Since the end of the Civil War, there have been numerous efforts to ensure the right to vote for all citizens. In 1870, Congress ratified the 15th Amendment to the Constitution stating “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race [or] color. ...” The Amendment also gave Congress power to enforce the article by “appropriate” legislative action.

Unfortunately, for another 100 years African Americans faced poll taxes, literacy tests and outright harassment and violence when they attempted to vote. It took the passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to end the discrimination of Jim Crow laws and regulations denying African Americans their full voting rights.

Deceptive voting practices are not a matter of free speech or a First Amendment right. In reality, such practices threaten the very integrity of our electoral process by attempting to rob voters of their right to vote. It is time for Congress to act once again to put an end to tactics that are deliberately intended to suppress or mislead voters.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MocoLoco January 07, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Michael Brown has given us the Democratic Party Talking Points on photo ID laws. He demonizes its advocates by saying they cynically want to make voting more difficult. There are a lot of us who simply and correctly want to add more integrity to the voting process. Just because a problem has not been documented doesn't mean it doesn't exist, and shouldn't prevent common-sense improvements to voting. We're not asking people to prove they can read or to pay a tax. We're just trying to make sure they vote once and only once. Sure, we could dip thumbs in purple dye, but I'd prefer to show my photo ID.
Michael Brown January 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
A voter photo ID system will not make a difference; current Maryland requirements are adequate for IDing an individual; and a new state-wide system will cost taxpayers millions to set-up, manage and maintain. The Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) (http://www.rnla.org/votefraud.asp) researched voter fraud between 2000 and 2010. There was ballot stuffing (public officials), vote buying (private interests), voter registration schemes, and improper absentee votes - no ID issues there. 13 states permanently deny felons the right to vote even after they complete their sentences. The info was not coordinated with their elections systems, so felons voted. A significant amount of individual voter fraud that the RNLA found was voting in the wrong precinct, voting while ineligible (aliens), and double voting. The fact that they could register would indicate that they could get an ID. I found only one incidence of someone impersonating another voter and it was through an absentee ballot. Most voting fraud would be resolved by improved state-wide registration, record keeping, monitoring, and enforcement; otherwise, photo IDs wouldn't work anyway. The politicians, pundits, and special interests know all of this, which is why I believe that their push for voter photo ID is a cynical effort to disenfranchise the 11% of Americans who do not have, and are not likely to obtain, a photo ID. This should not be a Party issue, it is about taking the vote away from Americans.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 07, 2012 at 11:33 PM
"Just because a problem has not been documented doesn't mean it doesn't exist, and shouldn't prevent common-sense improvements to voting. We're not asking people to prove they can read or to pay a tax. We're just trying to make sure they vote once and only once." It is an outrage that Montgomery County hasn't taken up the task of prohibiting pet Yetis. Hey, it may not be a documented problem, but it is only common sense that we should outlaw the possession of abominable snowmen as a pet. Anyone who owns one would be endangering the youth and elderly, as everyone knows the Yeti is an uncontrollable beast that becomes enraged easily, and has the strength of 10 men. I'm not asking everyone to prove they don't own a yeti - I'm just making sure they're not able to or going to.
MocoLoco January 08, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Okay, CDM. Hahaha. The difference, of course is that Yetis don't exist. With voter fraud, it is entirely conceivable. Now, Michael Brown makes a valid point (maybe unintentionally), in that if we establish a voter ID law, it might shift voter fraud to vote absentee, where voter ID is harder (though not impossible) to administer. My original point is this: Democrats fight for anti-intimidations measures; Republicans fight for voter ID. Democrats fight for corporate campaign limits; Republicans fight for union card-check laws. If either side was interested in having their bills pass, they would combine them with the counterpart. They don't. They're trying to use laws to get a leg-up on re-election. Did you just read how Maryland (Democrats) lead the nation in gerrymandering? Both sides are shameful leaders.
Corbin Dallas Multipass January 08, 2012 at 02:55 AM
The difference between something that is entirely conceivable but has no proof of existing and something that you consider non existent but has no proof of existing is zilch, zero, nada, from a policy perspective. It's a waste of time and money. Just as you truly believe that fraudulent voters exist that would be prevented by a resonable ID law, I truly believe that Yetis exist that shouldn't be owned by my neighbors in Montgomery County with a reasonable "Anit Yeti Pet Law". Just as you dread to think that some fraudulent voters out there are ruining our democracy and escaping unseen into society, I dread to think my neighbor is housing an Abominable Snowman that may ruin my weekend by eating me whole, and then escape unseen into the white tundra.
MocoLoco January 09, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Now you're just mocking me. I get it. Except that we're still frisking grandmas at TSA checkpoints because it's conceivable they could be sporting a bomb belt.
Daniel Grossberg February 29, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Did you know that the Montgomery County Board of Elections has no process for removing voters from the role who are dead or moved out of the county? All you need is the name of a dead person and their address and you can vote once for each of them. We all receive a voter registration card in the mail so we know where to vote... why not bring that in to prove eligibility? Why not demand more of our government? Shouldn't they have a process for reviewing the rolls to remove dead voters? Is that really asking too much?
KatieSilverSpring February 29, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I bring my voter registration card and an ID with me every time. In the last election, the judges and monitors almost had me arrested for presenting it! It was a very wierd experience. Maryland has an Election Integrity nonpartisan group working on cleaning up the rolls that all of us should support. As it was explained to me by J Christian Adams, the state will delete a deceased "voter" then sends the info to the county which sits on it.
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 29, 2012 at 06:01 PM
"Did you know that the Montgomery County Board of Elections has no process for removing voters from the role who are dead or moved out of the county?" I chose to confirm it by emailing the board of elections: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/elections/index.asp where I sent them that quote above and that I couldn't believe there was no process. They responded with the following: "There is a process for removing voters who have died. There is also a process for transferring people who have moved out of this county to another county in the state or have moved to another state. We do get a list every month about people who have died in the state of Maryland and we cancel them. If we hear from any family members or receive death certificates, the voters are cancelled."
KatieSilverSpring February 29, 2012 at 06:18 PM
and, did you know, Corbin Dallas Multipass, that if the registration is activated after a period of being set aside (not cancelled as they told you), that is, if someone votes in their place, that the registration is reactivated and may trigger activation for the Jury Pool. I know about this from personal experience. Even though I had asked the State to cancel my deceased husband's voter registration, it didn't get accomplished at the county level, somehow was reactivated and a Jury Duty notice was sent "to him" a few months ago.
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
That's interesting and I hope it didn't cause you too much trouble. It doesn't change the fact that what Daniel Grossberg said is false.
KatieSilverSpring February 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Oh, CDM, I couldn't disagree with you more. What Daniel Grossberg wrote is correct. Everyone should be involved in Election Integrity Maryland.
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
So then you think the county is lying when they say they have a process?
jnrentz1 March 01, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Voters should have an appropriate form of identification when they vote. If a prospective voter does not have appropriate identification, that voter should be allowed to submit a provisional ballot along with an affidavit.
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 01:03 PM
CDM - please check out Election Integrity Maryland. They have a very well researched non-partisan agenda for pushing the Board of Election toward good practice. My biggest beef with voters and taxpayers in Montgomery County is they tend to believe what they are told in spite of evidence all over to the contrary. Further to KSS points regarding election referees - they are very odd in their behavior and hers is only one of a dozen first hand stories I've heard that indicate they have an agenda aside from brokering fair and open elections. Witness the kerfuffle over issues related to referenda on both the police union work rules and, only two years ago, the ambulance fee and related petitions. I'd take what they say with a grain of salt.
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 01:10 PM
http://northpotomac.patch.com/blog_posts/whats-wrong-with-a-little-information See my latest post on the importance of becoming an informed voter.
Corbin Dallas Multipass March 01, 2012 at 01:57 PM
You asked "Did you know that the Montgomery County Board of Elections has *no process* for removing voters from the [roll] who are dead or moved out of the county?" The Board of Elections says the opposite. If you're going to level a serious charge like that, you need to back it up with facts or evidence. What "evidence to the contrary" do you have to level a serious charge such as that?
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 02:09 PM
http://electionintegritymaryland.com/pressreleases I have a process for losing weight... it doesn't mean I use it. They aren't liars for saying they have a process... they're liars (or at least hopeless dreamers) if they say it works. I'll repeat: I'd take what they say with a grain of salt. Regarding the attached press release from Election Integrity Maryland... you are free to think what you want about facts, evidence and motivation, but 5000 bad registrations in the first county they looked at doesn't bode well.
Corbin Dallas Multipass March 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Thanks for clarifying. That 5000 number is not great but it has to be put into context for it to mean anything. According to http://elections.state.md.us/elections/2010/turnout/general/2010_General_Statewide.html The total voter count in the last gubernatorial election was 294,604. 5000 bad registrations is about 1.7%. That's the highest impact it could possibly have, assuming (incredibly) all those 5000 votes were somehow impersonated. The actual total number of registered voters is about twice that at 573,431. So that means they've found less than 1% of the rolls have any problems. Feel free to correct my math. "they're liars (or at least hopeless dreamers) if they say it works." So a less than 1% error rate is not working to you? What error rate is acceptable?
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Mark Twain said: "There are lies, damed lies and statistics." and I say that my friend CDM again misses the point. Thanks for the "context" but your information is distracting. Nobody has (yet) claimed irregularities in a gubenatorial election. The research showed that in Montgomery County - the first county researched in MD - 7000 voter records from publicly available data were flagged for review and 5400 appear likely to be invalid. You draw your own conclusion but my analysis is that preliminary numbers like this indicate our MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOE is either incompetent or corrupt. CDM you strike me as someone who would like to be labeled "progressive." Why are you so attached to the status quo?
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I wonder what Senator Cardin thinks about Election Integrity Maryland?
Corbin Dallas Multipass March 01, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Can you elaborate on how my information is distracting? It shows that the number of problematic names on the voter rolls is of extremely low consequence, in the 1-2% range if they were all abused in aggregate. You seem to just be dismissing my numbers instead of explaining why they are inconsequential. "The research showed that in Montgomery County - the first county researched in MD - 7000 voter records from publicly available data were flagged for review and 5400 appear likely to be invalid." So is that 5400 number likely to stay the same or shrink upon further review? I should emphasize that my numbers, 573,431 on the rolls, 294,604 actually voting, which again are from http://elections.state.md.us/elections/2010/turnout/general/2010_General_Statewide.html , were the numbers for Montgomery County only. It may have sounded like I was implying that was for the entire State of Maryland. I welcome seeing what EIM finds, but so far they haven't really shown anything substantial in Montgomery County, and it is hard to see how your opinion that "MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOE is either incompetent or corrupt" is justified. But I await a fuller explanation. Just because Mark Twain said a phrase a long time ago doesn't make my math any less useful or informative. Whether or not I'm progressive has no bearing on what appropriate governmental policy is in regards to elections management. That sounds more like an ad hominem attack then some sort of useful discussion.
Jeff Hawkins March 01, 2012 at 08:20 PM
@Mr. Grossberg I read your exhanges with CDM with amusement. This comes to mind: "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension— a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone." Let's hope you return safely.........
jnrentz1 March 01, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Grandstanding, and the ever increasing number of laws that criminalize everything under the sun. Leave it alone Senator, we do not need more laws or harsher penalties. Current laws and penalties will do just fine.
Daniel Grossberg March 01, 2012 at 10:05 PM
LOL Jeff! Thanks. I was indeed sucked into it for a few hours today. Fortunately at the last exchange I realized exactly what you pointed out... where were you earlier today?
Michael Brown March 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I hear the concern about voter integrity but have not discovered the basis. With just a few hours of research on the web, I found that every claim of widespread voter fraud has been disproved. It turns out that very little of the actual voter fraud can be resolved by voter photo ID. Of greater concern is election fraud and registration fraud for which photo ID's play no role. So, there is a small problem that clearly agitates some people. What is the cost of the solution? We will pay that cost with our taxes and any time required of us to meet the new laws. It will also increase government. I hope that the solution doesn't depend on Maryland's driver's license, because we all know that most of Maryland's individual driver's licenses do not meet federal standards for identification (RealId). Maryland is known to have issued driver's licenses to non-citizens. What's the downside, besides cost? Nearly 30% of the elderly do not have a valid driver's license. Nearly 13% of the poor have no photo ID's. Over 10% of Hispanic Americans and African-Americans do not have photo-IDs. I got it, we will require all of them to get an approved photo ID. Are we going to require them to pay for this? You pay it or we won't let you vote? What bureaucracy is going to manage this? Disenfranchising valid American voters due to fears founded on rumors proven untrue seems a poor platform for any political party. It almost seems like an organized attempt at election fraud.
MocoLoco March 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Here we go again with inflated figures. 30% of elderly don't have *valid* driver's licence? I would gladly concede that expired driver's licenses should be accepted for voting purposes. The elderly are voting, not driving. Look---I 'm not saying that other problems don't exist. I'm saying that you shouldn't decline to add integrity to our voting process in this manner by pointing to other areas for improvement.
Corbin Dallas Multipass March 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
"I'm not saying that other problems don't exist. I'm saying that you shouldn't decline to add integrity to our voting process in this manner by pointing to other areas for improvement." Part of voting integrity is making sure those who should be allowed to vote are not turned away at the polls. If instating ID laws decreases valid voters from casting ballots in greater percentages than it prevents fraudulent voting, then it is a net loss to integrity overall. So saying you shouldn't decline to add integrity is all well and good, but the response is that isn't what you'd actually be doing. I've pointed out that based on Election Integrity Maryland's numbers the impact of Voter Identification would be very low, so it is very possible you'd be disenfranchising more than you'd be preventing fraud. Michael Brown, it would be great if you could cite your numbers.
Michael Brown March 04, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I based my comments on the following: "2008 Survey of the Performance of American Elections"; Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project; the "Final Report includes all of the tables - available at http://vote.caltech.edu/drupal/node/231 The Dead South Carolina investigation of the dead voting; Election Commission letter to govenor available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/82569617/2012-02-21-Alan-Wilson-Fraud-Investigation Lack of IDs "The Disproportionate Impact of Voter-ID Requirements on the Electorate—New Evidence from Indiana" available at http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/documents/Indiana_voter.pdf. The National Commission on Federal Election Reform, To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process, (2001), available at http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/election2000/electionreformrpt0801.pdf Voter Id Requirements And The Disenfranchisements Of Latino, Black And Asian Voters (2007), available at http://faculty.washington.edu/mbarreto/research/Voter_ID_APSA.pdf. "The Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin 4-5 (2005)", available at http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/ETI/barriers/DriversLicense.pdf. Costs "The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say"; available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/2f0860fb73fd559359_zzm6bhnld.pdf Current Maryland Voter ID requirements available at http://www.866ourvote.org/state?id=0041 Maryland Census Data available at http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/24000.html
Michael Brown March 04, 2012 at 04:23 AM
As you will discover, should you actually read the citations I identified, I did indeed round my numbers up, so MocoLoco may be correct, the numbers may be inflated. Or not. The problem with all of the data is they are based on specific results from studies over the past 10 years. What the actual numbers for any given state, county, or precinct is likely to be different. The 2001 National Commission on Federal Election Reform report (cited above) estimated that 8% of registered voters do not have a driver's license. It did not address how many licenses are valid. Apparently a lot of people don't update their paperwork when they move (3.6%) or get married (1.3%). And some let their driver's licenses expire (2%) see Caltech/MIT survey. That totals to 14.9%. So, given the registered voter number Corbin stated (573,431) that would mean 85,441 (no rounding) eligible Montgomery County voters being ineligible to vote. This will impact the elderly, the poor, and minorities more than the white middleclass < 65 demographic. Also, Maryland does not ensure citizenship to get a license. The only point of these numbers is that the decision to rush to require voter photo IDs will disenfranchise a lot of Americans that don't deserve to lose their right to vote. Most of "voter fraud" has proven to be issues with the maintenance of the voter rolls - that can be fixed without disenfranchising valid voters.

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