On Election Day 2005, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced the "Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005" (S. 1975), which was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and never came to a vote.

A bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections
November 8, 2005
Senator Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama

Mr. President, today millions of Americans will excerise their most fundamental right under the Constitution, the right to vote. As in every election, I hope all eligible Americans go to the polls to exercise this right. Voter participation is fundamental to our democracy, and we must do all we can to encourage those who can to vote.

After seeing what happened over the last two presidential elections, I have some other hopes for this Election Day. I hope all voters who go to the polls find voting machines that work, non-partisan poll workers who understand the law and enforce it without bias, lines that move smoothly, and ballots that make sense and are easy to understand. I also hope voters go to the polls today with accurate information about what is on the ballot, where they are supposed to vote, and what our Nation's voting laws are.

It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

Think about the story of the 2004 presidential election when voters in Milwaukee received fliers from the non-existent "Milwaukee Black Voters League," warning that voters risk imprisonment for voting if they were ever found guilty of any offense—even a traffic violation. In that same election, in a county in Ohio, some voters received mailings misinforming voters that anyone registered to vote by the Kerry Campaign or the NAACP would be barred from voting.

Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest, or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only: to keep Americans away from the polls.

I hope voters who go to the polls today are not victims of such malicious campaigns, but I know hoping is not enough. That is why I am introducing the Deceptive Election Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005 to provide voters with real protection from deceptive practices that aim to keep them away from the polls on Election Day.

The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. And the bill seeks to address the real harm of these crimes—voters who are discouraged from voting by misinformation—by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed and intimidated voters with accurate and full information so they can cast their votes in time. Perhaps just as important, this bill creates strong penalties for deceptive election acts, so people who commit these crimes suffer more than just a slap on the hand.

This legislation has the support of groups like the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Common Cause, the Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy, People for the American Way and the National Disability Rights Network.

Deceptive practices and voter intimidation are real problems and demand real solutions like those offered in my bill.

I hope my colleagues will join me and support this bill and work to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to have their votes count.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

From: "Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2005," Congressional Record - Senate, page S12531, November 8, 2005.  Source: The Library of Congress, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r109:4:./temp/~r109SHZJmz:e28000:, accessed 09/07/08.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.