Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation Thursday that would prohibit and penalize the spread of false information about voting rights and polling information, according to a news release published on the senator's website.
The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would make it a crime to knowingly publish false polling locations or election dates, as well as misleading voters about the forms of identification required for voting.
"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," McCaskill said. "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."
Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.), Doug Jones (Ala.), and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) co-sponsored the partisan bill.
Why did they write the bill?
The bill, which calls voting a fundamental right, cited examples of deceptive practices aimed at suppressing minority access to the voting booth as the reason for such protections.
In 2016, students at Bates College in Maine reportedly received fliers that instructed students they would need to change their driver's licenses and car registrations to reflect their local precincts in order to vote.
In 2012, some voters reported that they received phone calls that falsely informed them that "they could vote via telephone."
If passed, violators found guilty of intentionally misleading voters could face a fine of up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison.
"The Federal Government has a compelling interest in 'protecting voters from confusion and undue influence’ and in ‘preserving the integrity of its election process,'" the bill states.
Similar incidences have occurred for decades and can mislead voters into staying home on Election Day, the bill's sponsors wrote.
U.S. Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced companion legislation Thursday in the House.
The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2018 would also impose a fine up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison for those caught violating the law.
“With our safe, fair and honest elections under attack from both outside our country and within, this bill is an attempt to codify what we all know should be the law. No person should get away with providing false or misleading information about registering to vote or even voting,” McEachin said in a news release.