Friday, January 09, 2009

Election-Related Violence in NY

Earlier this week three Staten Island men, ages 18, 18 and 21, were charged with federal crime of interfering with voting rights on Election Night. The trio went on a violent rampage when it became clear the Barack Obama had won the election. According to the federal indictment, they "decided to find African-Americans to assault in retaliation for an African-American man becoming president." Among a number of especially violent assaults, they struck a man with a car they were driving.

These alleged acts, prosecuted as a federal crime, are horribly despicable. Voter intimidation and deception is rarely violent, but by no means rare. Nearly every election turns up fliers with misleading information including false endorsements or the incorrect day of the election. The case of challenges inside a Yonkers gym in the election of State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins in 2006 is a good example.

New York should also be able to prosecute voter deception and intimidation in state or municipal elections. There is already a model for legislation. In 2007, President-elect Obama introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act in the Senate. In addition to making such acts criminal offenses, the bill empowered the U.S. Attorney general to correct false information and submit a report summarizing any related activity to Congress.

No comments: