November 1, 2004
With the Presidential Election almost upon us, there has been much talk about voters being intimidated or otherwise interfered with while trying to vote. Because it is a federal election, 18 U.S.C. § 594 applies, which provides:
Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Interestingly, there are no reported federal court decisions under the statute, and there are no references to any actual prosecutions.
Another provision that applies to voting is 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(1)(A), which provides:
Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, by force or threat of force willfully injures, intimidates or interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with--
(1) any person because he is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from--
(A) voting or qualifying to vote, qualifying or campaigning as a candidate for elective office, or qualifying or acting as a poll watcher, or any legally authorized election official, in any primary, special, or general election . . . .
This provision is in the Civil Rights section of Title 18, the federal criminal code, and it protects the right of all citizens to vote and campaign for office. There are no reported decisions under this provision either. (ph)