Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2004 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Dan Abrams

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Why are the criminal punishments so soft on voter fraud if this could ruin our country's ability to have a fair election? | My simple suggestion to help remedy the increasing concerns about voter fraud and other illegal elections shenanigans: Stiffen the criminal penalties.

It's amazing that we still treat voting criminals with kid gloves. In some states the only punishment is a fine. This is the type of crime where the punishment might actually deter crime.

So first, let there be fair warning that the sentences are changing. Then hope that in and of itself will prevent voting thuggery. The accused are often local party officials or volunteers who would quickly learn about the changes and hopefully appreciate what it might mean for them. Those who still intentionally try to corrupt the system would then feel the weight of the criminal justice system fall upon them.

Think about it. Treason can subject you to the death penalty, but often voter fraud results in no time behind bars if it's prosecuted at all. They're not equal. But trying to cheat the voters in this country out of a fair election is in my mind a lesser form of treason. The punishments vary from state to state, but generally the maximum isn't more than five years in prison and a fine. Most of the time it means no actual prison time at all.

Now I'm not talking about putting away someone who mistakenly registers a second time after moving. I'm talking about cases where partisans intentionally destroy voter registration forms, bribe people to vote for a particular candidate or you know, those being investigated for registering over 40 times. This issue, this crime may ultimately undermine the voters' faith in our president and the world's faith in our system.

So I ask, why is such despicable behavior still considered such a minor crime?

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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