Celebrate the Birthday of the Bill of Rights By Opposing Resurrection of Obama’s Deceptive Practices Act

Published Thu, Dec 15 2011 12:48 PM


On the eve of the birthday of the Bill of Rights, Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Schumer (D-NY) claimed to give “respect” to the Bill of Rights, but their proposed Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011 will chill speech in violation of the First Amendment.

This bill has long been an item on Obama’s agenda.  Rick Hasen pointed out that Obama’s change.gov website long ago discussed resurrection of the act in 2008 when it said:

Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.

Blogger Ed Morrissey identified the key problems with Obama’s 2007 bill:

A law like this eliminates all but the deepest-pocketed organizations from participating due to the sudden liabilities involved in political speech. It also sets up the government as the arbiter of acceptable and “truthful” political speech, rather than the American electorate – a dangerous position for everyone.

These problems continue to be at issue in the current bill proposed by Senators Cardin and Schumer. Senators Cardin and Schumer are trying to package this as a First-Amendment-friendly by merely limiting the time frame that communications can be challenged, but their claim still doesn’t address involving the government in deciding what speech is acceptable and giving punishments based on such decisions. 

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder praised President Obama’s 2007 bill saying that “Senators Charles Schumer and Ben Cardin will re-introduce this legislation, in an even stronger form.” The Attorney General’s description of the bill is probably more accurate than the sponsor’s press release.  The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011 will be “stronger” at chilling speech. 

On this, the 220th birthday of the First Amendment, take a stand against such acts that chill free speech.


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