elections

Live Blog: Maryland Votes 2014

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Capital News Service

Capital News Service reporters will be reporting live from election night parties as the votes are counted.


Hogan Supporters Surprised at Upset Victory over Brown

ANNAPOLIS — Republican gubernatorial candidate and business owner Larry Hogan Jr. trumped his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Tuesday night in a race that reflected a national and statewide disillusionment with Democratic leaders.

At the Westin hotel in downtown Annapolis, Hogan told a crowd of cheering supporters that “tonight, real change has come to Maryland.”

“We have sent a clear message to Annapolis,” he said. “This race was never a fight between Republicans and Democrats. … It was a fight for Maryland’s future.”

“Voters showed they were completely fed up with politics as usual,” he said. “Tonight, Marylanders held our leaders accountable for eight years of failed economic policies.”

Tomorrow, Hogan said, his team would “roll up their sleeves” and begin working to fix the “serious financial problems” that he said plagued the state.

Many attendees at Hogan’s Annapolis election night party said it was not an outcome they had expected.

Small-business owner Jamie Kirkwood, from Queen Anne’s County, said she thought Hogan won because he “stayed on message” and “played a positive message.”

She said she thought O’Malley had polarized the state, hurting Brown’s campaign.

Kirkwood was leaving “excited” for her two kids’ future.

Steve Culp, 45, from Annapolis, said it was a “complete surprise.”

He attributed the upset to widespread frustration across Maryland – among moderate Democrats as well as Republicans – with taxes that have grown in number and amount under O’Malley’s administration.

Ellicott City resident Jeannine Mianulli said she and her husband were considering retiring outside of the state because of high taxes.

Now, Hogan’s win means that she can stay, Mianulli said.

Fifty-one-year-old Hillsmere resident Barbara Allgaier said she knew “a lot of people” who wanted to move out of the state due to economic problems.

“We are so excited about Larry Hogan winning – at last, he got people to listen,” she said. “People want change in this town.”

Though Hogan’s campaign “didn’t have money, they had audacity,” Allgaier said, adding that she was leaving in a “very hopeful” mood for the state.

As supporters trickled out, singing and cheering, the loudspeakers broadcasted the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

“I got a feeling that tonight’s going to be a good night…” the music played. For Hogan, that rang true.

Annika McGinnis with Dani Shae Thompson, 1:44 a.m.


Brown Can’t Shake Lieutenant Governor Curse

Anthony Brown could not shake the lieutenant governor’s curse as he conceded the Maryland gubernatorial race to his Republican opponent, Larry J. Hogan Jr.

Appearing on stage shortly after midnight, Brown thanked his supporters and congratulated Hogan on a hard fought campaign.

Brown conceded with 91.4 percent of the votes counted and Hogan holding a 6-point lead.

He spoke before a shrinking crowd as Democrats relived the election of 2003, when Republican Robert Ehrlich Jr. beat Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in deep blue Maryland.

“I’ll never forget the love, the support and encouragement from the people on this stage, all outstanding friends,” Brown said, flanked by his family, his running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, and Maryland Democrats, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Donna Edwards and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

– Lejla Sarcevic , 12:36 p.m.


Hogan Camp Remains Cautiously Optimistic with 61% of Vote Counted

The hors d’oeuvres were running dry, but spirits were high at Larry J. Hogan Jr.’s election night headquarters in Annapolis as report after report of vote tallies rolled in – all spelling optimism for the Republican in his gubernatorial campaign.

Hogan, an underdog in a state dominated by Democrats, was in a solid early lead with 61 percent of precincts reporting: 53.7 percent to Brown’s 44.6 percent.

As the band rose for its third set, another round of drinks were poured and supporters at the Hogan camp danced and drank with cautious optimism.

“We’re Republicans – all we can be is optimistic!” said Murphy Hartford of Anne Arundel County.

“I’m extremely excited – it’s a game-changer for Maryland for sure,” said 33-year-old Mike Deskin, managing partner at Columbia-based IT support provider Dresner Group, LLC.

To Deskin, the prospect of electing a Republican governor meant “happiness.”

But Deskin said Hogan’s initial lead didn’t mean much because it was still early.

As each vote tally announcement showed Hogan further in the lead, the diverse crowd cheered Hogan’s name and embraced enthusiastically.

“Republicans felt more energized this year. We were ready to get out and vote,” said Lee Gaines, a Baltimore County resident who voted early.

“We’re all here tonight because we think we can win,” Gaines said.

Other attendees included toddlers, such as 4-year-old Vanessa, held in the arms of 35-year-old Frederick resident Monique Canale.

Canale’s husband worked for Hogan’s Annapolis-based real estate business, The Hogan Companies, and the two men were childhood friends. They’d played in Little League together, Canale said.

Despite the prospect of a late night, Canale said she and her family were in for the long haul. She also has a 6-year-old son whose bedtime was extended for the special night.

“He’s playing video games on my phone right now,” Canale said.

– Annika McGinnis and Dani Shae Thompson
, 11 p.m.



Early Voting Results Going Back and Forth

COLLEGE PARK – Brown supporters gathered at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center at the University of Maryland for his election night party where he hoped to celebrate becoming the first lieutenant governor to rise to the state’s top job.

At one point, early voting results showed him edging ahead of his Republican opponent, Larry J. Hogan Jr., with about 51 percent of the early vote result.

But just a little while later, Hogan had taken an equally slight lead. Only about one-fifth of precincts had reported.

Supporters began filing in to Brown’s election night party at about 8 p.m., and the crowd grew steadily over the next 90 minutes.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., acknowledged the tight race saying that Marylanders are unhappy with where the state is and that it causes people to think about the election.

“I think being the party in power in Maryland, in any state today where people are unhappy, that that causes a concern. I think the division in Maryland is fully understandable,” Cardin said. “The key now is whoever governs, and I hope it’s Anthony Brown, brings us together.”
– Lejla Sarcevic, 9:50 p.m.



Hogan Supporters Nervous, But Hopeful

ANNAPOLIS – Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry J. Hogan Jr. trickling into the campaign’s election night party around 8 p.m. Tuesday were nervous but optimistic their candidate would win.

Caterers uncovered silver platters of charcuterie and fruit in the large, airy room at the Westin Annapolis hotel, which was filled with flower lilies and Maryland-colored balloons.

Jeff Dixon, a grocery clerk from Lusby, came in early with the press to take photos. He’s photographed political events ranging from President Barack Obama’s two inaugurations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign event for Democratic gubernatorial challenger Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown Thursday in College Park.

But this was his first election night party, and as a Hogan supporter, he was both excited and nervous.

“I’m optimistic for a win, but I won’t be surprised if the results don’t (match up),” he said. “I’m scared. I’m really scared. It doesn’t seem like Hogan’s been getting out to the public as much as Brown has. And he probably doesn’t have the money like Brown does.

“Hopefully that won’t matter,” Dixon said.

After leading campaign events at the Greenbelt Metro Station, South County Senior Center and Chick and Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis Tuesday morning, the Republican candidate and Annapolis real estate company owner “took it easy” in the afternoon, said Hogan press spokeswoman Erin Montgomery.

But the Hogan campaign made calls to voters “all day, up until the last moment,” and regional campaign field offices were out encouraging voters at polls throughout the state, she said.

A Hogan campaign internal poll several days ago showed the candidate 5 points ahead, but Montgomery was uncertain about the night’s outcome. She said results would most likely come in after 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“It’s going to be close,” she said.

Kirstin Shea, 30, a registered nurse from Edgewater, said she voted “the very first day, the very first hour.”

Shea, Montgomery’s sister, said she thought Hogan would have a “landslide” victory because Marylanders were “fed up” with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

She added that Hogan had also led a more positive and less attack-centered campaign than Brown.

Monday night at her nurse job, Shea was taking care of a patient who told her she’d moved to Delaware since her last visit because she couldn’t afford Maryland’s taxes, Shea said.

“Just hearing that made me feel so sad,” she said. “It was just a weird thing to hear the night before Election Day.”

At 8:11 p.m., a full brass band from Crownsville, Bobby and the Believers, cranked up the music. The room was filled with optimistic energy as Hogan supporters danced through the food line to “I Will Survive.”

“I really do think in my heart that it’s going to be a landslide,” Shea said.
–Annika McGinnis, 9:11 p.m.

Growing minority populations ‘diluted’ in new General Assembly districts, lawmakers say

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By Annika McGinnis, Capital News Service (Oct. 15, 2014)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – More signs are in Spanish than English on a stretch of Wheaton’s Georgia Avenue, a road lined with “lavanderias,” Latin American grocery stores and the Guatemalan fast food chain Pollo Campero.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery County, registering new voters at Montgomery County's Wheaton Library

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery County, left, is registering voters Oct. 4 at Montgomery County’s Wheaton Library. Montgomery’s Hispanic Democratic Club sponsored the event, seeking to register new voters in a county that has become majority-minority. Capital News Service photo by Annika McGinnis.

Down the road, at noon on Oct. 4 in the Wheaton Regional Library, “Inscribase para voter” – register to vote – was written on a poster on Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez’s table. By 12:30 p.m., the Montgomery County Democrat, 11-year delegate and first Latina member of the state legislature had enrolled five new voters, including several new citizens.

Though small, the grassroots push showed the slow but steady increase in minority political participation across Maryland. It parallels the state’s Hispanic and African-American populations’ increase over the past decade.

Despite an increase in minority candidates running for seats in the state legislature, diversity in the General Assembly will still likely not keep pace with these changing demographics – due partly to map redistricting that some minority lawmakers and political groups said clumps together or slices across minority populations to keep Democratic incumbents in power.

The new map makes some inroads, adding two new African-American majority state Senate districts and the state’s first majority Hispanic House of Delegates district.

And though African-Americans made up 31 percent of Marylanders in 2012 and Hispanics 8 percent, the legislature’s minority caucus leaders anticipated African-American and Hispanic legislators would make up just 24 and 3 percent of the General Assembly following this November’s elections.

“What we see is just a huge continuation of the status quo,” said Gutierrez, an El Salvadoran native. “We don’t have an equitable representation of our population.”

Following new U.S. Census data released every 10 years, the Maryland Constitution mandates the state remodel its legislative districts to take into account changing population demographics.

Between 2000, the census basis for the last map, and 2012, when the last figures were tabulated, 260,000 more African-Americans moved into the state, a 2 percent increase in the group’s proportion of state population, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show.

African-American groups swelled especially in Harford, Charles and Baltimore counties: In Charles, which is 41 percent black, the demographic grew 57 percent.

Over the decade, the Hispanic population doubled, growing in every Maryland county, including 138,000 more people in Montgomery and Prince George’s alone. The two counties surged from 12 and 7 percent Hispanic or Latino in 2000 to 17 and 15 percent in 2012, census data shows.

Montgomery includes the nation’s third-largest group of El Salvadorans, the Pew Hispanic Center reported.

Gutierrez called Maryland’s Hispanic growth “enormous.”

“As immigration has continued, many have come to the area because that is where they have sisters, brothers, cousins, friends,” she said.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery County, leading Gaithersburg resident George Ndinu through the voter registration process.

Gutierrez leading Gaithersburg resident George Ndinu through the voter registration process. Capital News Service photo by Annika McGinnis.

‘I WANT THIS NEIGHBORHOOD, NOT THAT NEIGHBORHOOD’

Forty-three incumbents from the 141-member House of Delegates are retiring or running for other positions, and seven incumbent senators out of 47 will not run.  That leaves about 70 percent of the House and 85 percent of the Senate campaigning to keep their spots.

The new map affected most districts. It was designed to keep in power “not just the majority party – but specific people who are in specific positions in the majority party,” said Del. Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s County.

Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one, has the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation, according to a 2012 report by geospatial analysis firm Azavea.

Gutierrez said when redistricting began in 2011, House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel County, appointed a state delegate to meet one-on-one with each Montgomery incumbent delegate and prepare the county’s “preferred” districts.

“Ten questions were asked: ‘Where do you live? Where do your parents live? Where do your friends live? And the people who are running against you?’ And then there were changes made to ensure that incumbent would be re-elected,” Gutierrez said.

But the Maryland Court of Appeals stated in 2012 that intentionally creating a map “helping or injuring incumbents or political parties” was allowed, as long as it did not violate constitutional or federal requirements.

A five-member governor’s redistricting committee created the official map, but any legislator could come to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services and ask them to create a proposed map to recommend to the committee, said Michelle Davis, a senior policy analyst in the department.

Lawmakers wouldn’t come in and say “‘Oh, we want to screw all the Democrats in Calvert County,’” but they could say ‘“Oh, I want my district to look like this,’” Davis said.

“They may say, ‘I’ve got too much population in my district – can you lighten that up, make it legal? And when you do that, can you take more of this and less of that?’” Davis said. “More times it’s in terms of geography: ‘I want this neighborhood, not that neighborhood.’”

But in effect, the map “tore apart communities,” Braveboy, the chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said.

“That wasn’t as important as preserving power,” she said.

A THREE-COUNTY DISTRICT

Take District 27, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr.’s district, said Tamara Brown, South County Democratic Club president. The district, which used to fall in Prince George’s and Calvert, now includes part of a third county: Charles.

Brown said it was modified to offset the increasingly Republican Calvert with mostly Democratic votes from Charles’s growing African-American population.

“It’s an atrocity of gerrymandering regardless of the party,” Brown wrote in an email. “Redistricting keeps [Miller] in office. He can’t or won’t live with us anymore, but sure keeps our highly reliable votes.”

Over two weeks, Miller did not respond to repeated calls and emails for comment.

But in 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals struck down a case that claimed several multicounty districts disenfranchised minorities and disregarded the state constitution’s requirement that districts regard “natural and political boundaries” such as county lines.

There was no evidence of racial discrimination, and the state could create multicounty districts in order to ensure population equity or other requirements, the court ruled.

Carving the Lines: Behind Maryland’s New Legislative Districts
By Annika McGinnis

Every 10 years, the Maryland governor’s office reshapes the state’s voting districts. Here’s a breakdown of the 2012 process:

It follows the U.S. Census: In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released new national data tracking state population and demographics. The data shows how the population has moved and how demographics have changed over the past decade. 

Both the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Constitution require the state to use this information to craft new electoral districts. Districts are supposed to be formed to ensure every person has the same voting power.

Maryland creates two maps: Maryland must reshape both the districts that elect U.S. representatives to Congress and those that elect state senators and delegates to the General Assembly. These districts are different, so the state must create two separate maps.

The legislative map is carved up to elect state senators and delegates: The Maryland General Assembly has 47 senators and 141 delegates, so there are 47 state Senate districts that each elect one senator and three delegates. One Senate district can elect all three delegates, or it can be divided into three smaller districts that each elects one delegate. It can also be split into one district that elects two delegates and one that elects one delegate.

How the 2012 maps were approved:

·      In March 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley received the Census data.

·      In July 2011, O’Malley appointed a five-member committee to craft the new maps.

·      The committee held 12 public hearings across Maryland during the summer.

·      The state’s Departments of Planning and Legislative Services helped the committee analyze data, create potential maps and review third-party plans.

·      Throughout the year, members of the public submitted 23 alternative plans for consideration.

·      In December, the committee released its proposed map for Maryland’s legislative districts and held a public hearing. Minor amendments were made.

·      In January 2012, the governor submitted the plan to state Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. They then introduced it to the General Assembly.

·      The map became law automatically on Feb. 24, 2012, after the legislature did not adopt an alternative plan.

THE NEW MAP’S “DILUTING” EFFECT

Miller, the state’s Senate president since 1987, was one of five members serving on the governor’s committee that designed the redistricting map following the 2010 national census.

The group also included Busch, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Secretary of Appointments Jeanne Hitchcock and former Republican Anne Arundel County Del. James King.

The fifth member, Prince George’s County business owner Richard Stewart, was sentenced in June 2012 to two years in prison for not paying almost $4 million in taxes.

O’Malley eventually presented his plan to the General Assembly in January 2012, and it went into effect in February of that year.

Gutierrez called the redistricting process “totally flawed.” Though the state held 12 public hearings between July and September 2011, Gutierrez said, there had not been any proposed map to discuss at those meetings.

During the planning stages, Gutierrez proposed two additional majority-minority districts in Montgomery County: a Hispanic one in District 18’s Wheaton and Aspen Hill area and an African-American one in District 20’s Takoma Park. Gutierrez said she also pushed for another district within District 19 near Gaithersburg and Germantown.

Twenty-two other alternative plans were submitted for all or some of the state’s legislative districts. But the redistricting committee had no obligation to comment on or use them in any way, according to the state’s Department of Planning.

Instead, the new map broke apart Montgomery’s District 39, which borders Gaithersburg and includes Washington Grove and Montgomery Village, into three districts that “diluted” minority voting power, Gutierrez said.

And though the first majority-Hispanic state House district was created in Prince George’s County, Gutierrez said she thought the size of the voting-age Latino population in that district- 19,086 people, or 60 percent – warranted more than a one-member district.

Baltimore City lost two districts due to its declining population. As district lines changed, three African-American incumbents were pitted against each other – and former Democratic delegates Keiffer Mitchell and Melvin Stukes lost against Democratic Del. Keith Haynes in the primary.

Affecting a “very poor” district, the move diluted a “stronghold” of the African-American community at the city center, said Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston.

A group of 22 voters, filing in the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2012, claimed the new map underpopulated almost all African-American districts and violated both the state and national constitutions.

However, the court denied any racial discrimination and ruled that all districts met population requirements.

 

MEANDERING AROUND A ‘SALAMANDER’

Complaints of Maryland gerrymandering are nothing new: Following 2002 redistricting, former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry sued the state on claims that the plan lacked adequate majority-minority districts in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties to match the area’s black and Hispanic populations. The Court of Appeals threw out the governor’s map and created a new one.

After the 2010 census, congressional district redistricting also drew fire from the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC, which sued unsuccessfully on claims that the new maps diluted Montgomery’s minority power.

Mid-September, about two dozen Maryland residents, angry about what they called a “salamander”-shaped Third Congressional District that snakes from Owings Mills to Olney to Annapolis, biked, ran and kayaked for three days and 225 miles around the district’s confines.

Annapolis resident Tom DeKornfeld ran 55 miles in the so-called “gerrymander meander” before helping deliver a petition to gubernatorial candidate representatives near the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis on Sept. 23.

Maryland League of Women Voters representative Gabrielle Strandquist, also from Annapolis, said at the event that gerrymandering to benefit incumbents was “unhealthy” and “undemocratic.

“History has proven that even if the guy’s a jerk, they almost always get re-elected,” she said. “Because it’s ‘Oh, I know him; let’s just vote for him, you know. And he or she may not be a good person.”

A MORE DIVERSE BALLOT

Despite redistricting complaints, districts are still seeing more minority candidates running for seats in the general election as the legislature prepares for a huge November turnover.

Some called it an inevitable generational demographic change; others called it national attention to minority issues or inspiration from the prospect of electing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the state’s first African-American governor.

Cassandra Beverley, a Democrat from Harford County running for the District 34B House of Delegates seat, said there were four African-Americans running in her district, including herself- more than she’d seen in two decades.

She said part of why she ran was to better reflect Harford’s growing diversity. The district increased from 10 to 14 percent black between 2000 and 2012, census statistics show.

“I think there was just a lot of motivation for people to do something to fight the status quo,” she said. “When they’re looking at a governing body that doesn’t seem to have anyone who looks like them or thinks like them, they’re less likely to have confidence in the legislature.”

Black Republican Council Chairman Tony Campbell said more African-American Republicans are also running: five for General Assembly seats, four of them from Prince George’s County.

The increasing diversity represents a “generational shift,” Campbell said.

But the increases are still marginal. Braveboy anticipated just one or two more African-American members to the 44 currently in the legislature’s black caucus, including an additional one from the majority-minority Montgomery, where non-Hispanic whites made up 49 percent in 2012.

To the four current Hispanic legislators, Gutierrez anticipated, two more delegates would be elected: Maricé Morales in Montgomery County and Will Campos in Prince George’s County’s new Hispanic-majority district.

In recent months, immigration issues and the race riots in Ferguson, Missouri, stemming from this summer’s shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown have brought festering race-related issues into the limelight.

With a more diverse legislature, Braveboy said she hoped state policy would also address more issues affecting minorities. Last session, she said it “took a lot” to get a bill passed mandating the state hire more minority troopers.

Enacting real policy change, including on language access bills, minority businesses and culturally appropriate services and hiring, requires legislators who represent those affected, Gutierrez said.

“If we don’t bring up the issues, they would not be on the table,” Gutierrez said.

A GROWING VOTER BLOC

Gaithersburg resident George Ndinu stopped by Gutierrez’s voter registration table in the entryway of the library on Oct 4.

“I always want to make sure I’m available to vote,” Ndinu said, though he had lived in the United States for 15 years since moving from Cameroon and had voted several times before.

Even with more minority candidates running, candidates need to do a better job reaching out to minority and underrepresented communities, Gutierrez said. Often, she said, candidates target so-called “super voters” – those who have been registered for years – and neglect new voters such as many Hispanics.

But minorities could become a strong voting bloc: This year, Gutierrez said she had seen between 1,000 and 2,000 newly registered Latino voters in her district.

“There’s been a real concerted effort to say to Latinos: ‘Register to vote; it’s in the voting box and voting process that you can make a difference,’” she said.

Though Braveboy said minorities had been “woefully underrepresented” in the state legislature, she anticipated some “marginal gains” next month and hoped for an escalating trend toward diversity.

“In numbers, you have power,” Braveboy said.

Democrats push to give attorney general new election powers

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By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 26, 2012)

— At a time when the Republican House of Representatives is poised to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, Democrats in the Senate want to give him broad new powers in elections.

A group of Senate Democrats pushed Tuesday for a new law to combat the use of campaign tactics meant to deceive people into not voting, tactics often aimed at minorities and other vulnerable groups. As part of the law, the group wants Holder, and any future attorney general, to have the power to prosecute offenders. At the same time, it would require the attorney general to step in as an arbiter of the truth in elections, telling the public about deceptive practices and labeling them as false.

The idea of giving Holder powers in elections makes the proposal dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House, where Republicans are likely to vote Thursday to hold him in contempt for refusing to turn over emails in an investigation of a gun sting operation gone bad. Regardless of who holds the office, Republicans said, the proposed law is unnecessary and unconstitutional.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Democrats said the bill is needed to address a litany of instances of voter deception and intimidation occurring over the past few years.

In Maryland, for example, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., testified about the 2010 election, when automated phone calls told voters on Election Day that Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, had already won, so they didn’t need to vote.

“Our goals have been met,” the robo-call told more than 110,000 Democratic voters. “Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight.”

In Houston in 2010, fliers were distributed in African American neighborhoods telling voters that they need only cast their ballot for one Democratic candidate to vote for the party’s entire ticket.

Earlier this month, calls tried to dissuade people from voting against Wisconsin’s Republican governor in a recall election. The calls falsely told voters that if they’d signed a recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker, their “job was done” and they didn’t need to actually vote to oust him.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said such tactics were “despicable.”

“People like this really belong in jail, because they’re really violating the practice of our democracy,” Schumer said.

Such practices often target people of color, people with disabilities and the young, poor and elderly, testified Tanya Clay House, director of public policy at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Similar tactics date to Jim Crow laws and unlawful tactics targeting African American voters, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in written testimony.

“Pictures of Americans beaten by mobs, attacked by dogs, and blasted by water hoses for trying to register to vote are seared into our national consciousness,” said Leahy. He argued that the problem is worsening through new laws requiring voters to show identification.

Targeted communities tend to be primarily Democratic, House said.

“I am not going to assume what their (Republicans’) intent is,” House said. “But because these fliers are targeting certain vulnerable communities, I think certain inferences can be drawn whether people think they’re going to vote for certain political parties.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said a new law is unnecessary, noting that there are federal and state regulations already in place against deceptive tactics. Critics also said that one part of the legislation, which would allow private individuals to file lawsuits against people who make false political statements, is unconstitutional.

John J. Park Jr. of the Strickland Brockington Lewis law firm questioned how one would determine the definition of a “true” statement.

“What about statements that are ‘mostly true?’ What about those that are ‘half true?’” Park said in written testimony. He said that the legislation would result in the political parties trying to undermine each other through arbitrary lawsuits.

House insisted the legislation was “narrowly tailored” to avoid such issues. Proponents said that only some states have passed laws against deceptive practices, that there are no criminal penalties under the current federal law and that deceptive speech is unprotected by the First Amendment.