Makes the suppression of voters a civil violation.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to prohibiting the suppression of voters
PURPOSE: This bill would create a new electoral crime of voter suppression, punishable as a misdemeanor.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section one amends article seventeen of the election law by adding a new section 17-153, creating the crime of voter suppression and providing penalties therefor.
EXISTING LAW: Article seventeen of the election law contains several statutes addressing the issues of voter coercion and intimidation, however there is no specific statute that deals with the actual suppression of voters.
JUSTIFICATION: Unfortunately, even in the twenty first century voter suppression is an all too real reality in this state. While sometimes it occurs subtly, oftentimes the effort is much more pronounced and widespread.
Most recently, attempts to suppress the vote were documented in a recent election in New York State. In that race, documented efforts to suppress minority voters were captured by attorneys present in many of the polling locations. Some of the suppressive actions reported included an armed man with police shield escorting around alleged poll watchers throughout various polling sites during voting hours; repeated blanket challenges to minority voters at a particular polling location; gluing down the lever for a candidate on a machine so that no one could vote for that candidate; people blocking the entryways to select polling sites in heavily populated minority areas; and a widespread challenge to nearly 6,000 Democratic voters who allegedly did not live where their voter registration information claimed they did.
In light of the blanket challenge to the registration of several thou sand voters prior to the election and reports from the prior election for that office alleging widespread voter suppression, the federal government, exercising their discretion pursuant to the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, sent federal monitors to the district to oversee the election.
One reporter from the New York Times who personally witnessed some of the suppression activities described the situation as "chaotic." In an editorial printed two days following the election, the reporter stated that "it appeared there were a dozen or more alleged poll watchers milling about and challenging one voter after another, insisting that their signatures did not match the ones in the registration books." Clearly, such suppressive efforts were to slow down the lines to vote, hoping people would leave and force people to
vote on paper ballots, which could later be subject to scrutiny and judicial review. This legislation would fill an important void in the election law by creating a new statute that would directly address and hold people accountable for intentionally suppressing the vote. While it is unfortunate such a law is even needed, we as a citizenry must send a message that actions such as what happened in tlle situation described herein will no longer be tolerated and that from now on, under this statute, those who seek to suppress the vote will be held criminally accountable.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009-2010 - S.2554B - Passed Senate
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1009 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 5, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. STEWART-COUSINS, ADAMS, ADDABBO, BRESLIN, DIAZ, DUANE, HASSELL-THOMPSON, KRUEGER, MONTGOMERY, PERKINS, SAMPSON, STAVI- SKY -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be commit- ted to the Committee on Elections AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to prohibiting the suppression of voters THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "deceptive practices and voter suppression prevention act". S 2. The election law is amended by adding a new section 17-151 to read as follows: S 17-151. DECEPTIVE PRACTICES. 1. ANY PERSON, POLITICAL COMMITTEE, LABOR ORGANIZATION, CORPORATION, OR OTHER ENTITY, WHETHER ACTING UNDER COLOR OF LAW OR OTHERWISE, WHO KNOWINGLY COMMUNICATES OR KNOWINGLY CAUS- ES TO BE COMMUNICATED DECEPTIVE INFORMATION, KNOWING SUCH INFORMATION TO BE FALSE AND, IN ACTING IN THE MANNER DESCRIBED, PREVENTS OR DETERS ANOTHER PERSON FROM EXERCISING THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN ANY ELECTION, IS GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR. 2. THE FOLLOWING DEFINITIONS ARE APPLICABLE TO THIS SECTION: (A) "DECEPTIVE INFORMATION" MEANS FALSE INFORMATION REGARDING: (I) THE TIME, PLACE, OR MANNER OF ANY ELECTION; (II) THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR OR RESTRICTIONS ON VOTER ELIGIBILITY FOR ANY ELECTION, INCLUDING ANY PENAL- TIES ASSOCIATED WITH VOTING BY INELIGIBLE VOTERS; (III) INFORMATION REGARDING A VOTER'S REGISTRATION STATUS OR ELIGIBILITY; OR (IV) THE POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION OF ANY CANDIDATE; AND (B) "ELECTION" AS USED IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE DEEMED TO APPLY TO AND INCLUDE ALL ELECTIONS ADMINISTERED BY THE STATE OR CITY OF NEW YORK BOARDS OF ELECTIONS, OR ANY COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS, INCLUDING ANYEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00809-01-1 S. 1009 2
GENERAL, PRIMARY, RUN-OFF, OR SPECIAL ELECTION FOR ANY STATE OR LOCAL OFFICE OR BALLOT PROPOSITION. 3. ANY PERSON AGGRIEVED BY A VIOLATION OF SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION MAY INSTITUTE A CIVIL ACTION OR OTHER PROPER PROCEEDING FOR PREVENTATIVE RELIEF, OR MAY APPLY FOR A PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY INJUNC- TION, RESTRAINING ORDER, DECLARATORY JUDGMENT, OR OTHER ORDER IN ANY COURT WITH JURISDICTION PURSUANT TO SECTION 16-100 OF THIS CHAPTER. 4. ANY ATTEMPT TO COMMIT AN OFFENSE DESCRIBED IN SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE APPLICABLE PROVISION OF THE PENAL LAW, IS A CLASS B MISDEMEANOR. 5. THE PROVISIONS OF ARTICLE TWENTY AND ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED FIVE OF THE PENAL LAW, RELATING TO CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR CONDUCT OF ANOTHER AND CONSPIRACY, SHALL APPLY TO PROSECUTIONS UNDER THIS SECTION. 6. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SHALL HAVE CONCURRENT JURISDICTION WITH ANY DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN THE PROSECUTION OF ANY OFFENSES UNDER THIS SECTION RELATING TO DECEPTIVE PRACTICES AS WELL AS ANY OFFENSES ARISING OUT OF SUCH PROSECUTION. S 3. The election law is amended by adding a new section 17-153 to read as follows: S 17-153. SUPPRESSION OF VOTERS. 1. ANY PERSON, POLITICAL COMMITTEE, LABOR ORGANIZATION, CORPORATION, OR OTHER ENTITY WHO SUPPRESSES OR THREATENS TO SUPPRESS THE RIGHT OF ANY PERSON TO LAWFULLY EXERCISE THEIR FRANCHISE, OR IN ANY OTHER MANNER COMPELS SUCH PERSON TO VOTE OR TO REFRAIN FROM VOTING FOR OR AGAINST A PARTICULAR CANDIDATE FOR PUBLIC OFFICE OR FOR OR AGAINST A PARTICULAR BALLOT PROPOSITION IS GUILTY OF A CLASS A MISDEMEANOR. 2. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, THE TERM "SUPPRESS" SHALL MEAN TO USE FORCE, AUTHORITY OR AN ABUSE OF POWER TO PREVENT, RESTRAIN, INHIBIT OR COMPEL ANOTHER FROM ACTING IN HIS OR HER OWN INTERESTS OR INTENTIONS, OR INTO NOT ACTING AT ALL. 3. ANY PERSON, POLITICAL COMMITTEE, LABOR ORGANIZATION, OR CORPORATION WHO ATTEMPTS TO COMMIT AN OFFENSE DESCRIBED IN SUBDIVISION ONE OF THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A CLASS B MISDEMEANOR. 4. THE PROVISIONS OF ARTICLE TWENTY AND ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED FIVE OF THE PENAL LAW, RELATING TO CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR CONDUCT OF ANOTHER AND CONSPIRACY SHALL APPLY TO PROSECUTIONS UNDER THIS SECTION. 5. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SHALL HAVE CONCURRENT JURISDICTION WITH ANY DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN THE PROSECUTION OF ANY OFFENSES UNDER THIS SECTION RELATING TO DECEPTIVE PRACTICES AS WELL AS ANY OFFENSES ARISING OUT OF SUCH PROSECUTION. S 4. Section 17-166 of the election law is amended to read as follows: S 17-166. Penalty. Any person convicted of a misdemeanor under this article shall for a first offense be punished by A SENTENCE OF imprison- ment for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Any person who, having been convicted of a misdemeanor under this article, shall thereafter be convicted of another misdemeanor under this article, shall be guilty of a felony. ANY PERSON CONVICTED OF A FELONY UNDER THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE CONVICTED OF A CLASS E FELONY FOR A FIRST OFFENSE AND FOR ANY SUBSEQUENT FELONY OFFENSE UNDER THIS ARTICLE, A CLASS D FELONY. S 5. This act shall take effect immediately.