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Efforts to suppress voter turnout not tolerable

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Published on: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

By U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin

Over the last decade, we have seen repeated efforts to suppress voter turnout. Unfortunately, this year was no different.

On Election Day 2010, tens of thousands of Marylanders received phone calls telling them “Gov. O’Malley and President Obama have been successful” and to “relax, everything is fine.” The call went on to say that victory was assured and their votes were not need. “The only thing left is to watch TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.”

On Election night, approximately two hours before the close of the polls, 50,000 of these misleading calls were made to Maryland voters. The calls have been traced to a political operative who was paid more than $97,000 by the Ehrlich for Governor Campaign for political work.

We have seen these tactics before. During the 2006 and 2008 elections in Maryland similar intentionally misleading actions occurred. In those elections, voters were targeted with deceptive literature, misleading automated calls, voter intimidation and suggestions of arrest for unpaid parking tickets or unpaid taxes if individuals attempted to vote. During my own 2006 Senate campaign, voter guides were handed out by the opposing party that contained false and misleading endorsements in an effort to diminish the impact of minority voters.

Reports of voter deception are not limited to Maryland. During this past election in California, thousands of Hispanic voters received robocalls telling them Election Day was Wednesday, Nov. 3, a day after the election. At a McDonald’s in Ohio, workers received paychecks with a letter attached urging them to vote Republican or their pay and benefits would be in jeopardy. In Arizona, a poll worker was observed videotaping voters as they entered polling places.

Targeting voters with deceptive messages in a deliberate attempt to suppress voter participation is well outside the limits of protected free speech. We cannot continue to allow such intentional actions to be tolerated. We have a moral obligation to stop these reprehensible tactics aimed at keeping minorities and others from exercising their inalienable right to vote. These tactics threaten the very integrity of our electoral process.

I have written to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine the deceptive practices used Nov. 2 against voters in Maryland and elsewhere around the nation. We must ensure that such deliberate practices are not tolerated.

In 2007, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I chaired a hearing to review the need for S453, the Prevention of Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation in Federal Elections Act. I co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama. The bill, which was approved by the Judiciary Committee, would impose criminal penalties on deceptive voter practices.

I also have requested a Judiciary Committee hearing on deceptive voter practices that occurred this election cycle in Maryland and elsewhere. 

Our democratic republic depends on free and fair elections and voting is one of our most fundamental rights. We cannot and we must not allow any group or individual to subvert that right.

Reader Comments - 4 Total

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Posted By: Charles S. Shepherd III On: 6/5/2011

Title: Do the dead vote

1960 Kennedy vs Nixon for president, what would Senator Cardin say about all those dead people who voted for Kennedy from Illinois and Texas?

Posted By: Ed On: 4/16/2011

Title: A Start To Fixing The Problem

An Immediate goal of Everyone should be to get a Law in place Banning the use of Automated Phone Calls. Just before the election I got several that would not disconnect. I'd hear what it was, and hang up. I'd pick up the phone a few minutes later, and it would still be there. What if someone had one of these calls and they needed to call 911 for an emergency?? Ban Automated Calling NOW.

Posted By: Sigmandh On: 4/5/2011

Title: sigmandh

Unfortunately, dirty tricks are part of both parties. Don't forget, one party likes to have convicted felons, who are not eligible to vote, vote in elections. Lets not laud the efforts of Sen. Schumer who's middle name is Deception, Trickery and Misrepresentation. And please, lets not even bring up the name OsamaBama of the infamous Chicago dirty tricks area. It's nice to say stop all this and not look at all parties concerned.

Posted By: Ike On: 12/9/2010

Title: What an idiot is Cardin?

The biggest threat to voters was a REAL threat: The New Black Panthers in Philadelphia physically threatened white voters with clubs and threatened to kill white babies. Where is your blessed Eric Holder, Chuck Schumer and Barach Obama when it comes to prosecuting these real and serious acts? They dismissed the charge and abandoned the investigation. So where is the justice? Answer: only justice for minorities and liberals; not for white conservatives


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