Phone calls were clearly intended to suppress voter turnout
Washington, DC – The day after Election Day 2010, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate anonymous, automated phone calls made to predominantly African-American and other voters in Baltimore and elsewhere around the state intentionally designed to suppress voter turnout.
“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. Unfortunately, we have seen this pattern of voter suppression in Maryland, and across the country, in past elections,” said Senator Cardin. “We have a moral obligation to stop these reprehensible tactics that are aimed at keeping minorities and others from exercising their inalienable right to vote. These tactics undermine and corrode our democracy and threaten the very integrity of our electoral process.”
In addition to his letter to Attorney General Holder, Senator Cardin has requested Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) hold a hearing on deceptive voter practices that occurred this election cycle in Maryland and elsewhere around the country. In June 2007, Senator Cardin chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to review the need for S. 453, the Prevention of Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation in Federal Elections Act, legislation he cosponsored with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). The bill, which was approved by the Judiciary Committee, would impose criminal penalties on deceptive election practices.
A recording of the 2010 Election Day robo calls can be heard in the attached MP3 file.
The text of the letter follows (PDF also attached):
November 3, 2010
The Honorable Eric Holder
Department of Justice
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I am writing today to request that the U.S. Department of Justice look into a series of misleading automated phone calls to Maryland voters that were clearly intended to suppress voter turnout in predominantly African-American communities during this year’s general election.
On Election Day, November 2, 2010, Baltimore City residents and other Democrats around the state received automated phone calls stating: “Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct…and we’re ok. Relax, everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.”
While I fully understand that campaigns can be rough and tumble, where candidates question and criticize their opponent’s record and judgment, some actions go beyond the pale and seek to intimidate voters. We must take action when entities deliberately use deceptive practices to marginalize and disenfranchise voters.
These tactics are not new, but are tactics we have seen before. During the 2006 and 2008 elections in Maryland similar intentionally misleading actions occurred. In those elections, we saw 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.
I request that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine the deceptive practices used on November 2, 2010 against voters in Maryland and elsewhere around the nation. We must ensure that such deliberate practices are not tolerated.
I look forward to your response.
Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator