Senate Democratic leaders will push legislation to make it a federal crime, punishable by fines and jail time, to use automated “robo calls” and other tactics to mislead and discourage voters, reports Gannett News Service. Civil rights and watchdog groups say some voters complained this year of being barraged by automated recorded campaign calls. Some gave misleading information, directing voters to the wrong polling site or raising questions about whether a voter was registered. Tova Wang of the Century Foundation says misinformation in flyers and calls, practices employed by Democrats and Republicans, aim to suppress voter turnout. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who is helping to draft legislation, will call for a separate division within the Justice Department to deal with such problems.
Election experts say Schumer’s proposal may raise concerns about freedom of speech, particularly if calls are more annoying than misleading. “That’s where you could potentially get into the First Amendment area,” said Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way.