Dead: Bill sought by governor targeting election lies

It would have made it a crime for elected officials or candidates to knowingly lie about election outcomes if those claims resulted in violence.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A bill sought by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that would make it a crime for elected officials or candidates to knowingly lie about election outcomes if those claims result in violence will not advance, the Senate sponsor said Tuesday.

Hours ahead of a key deadline, Democratic Sen. David Frockt said the bill would not be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor. He said the bill did not have enough support to clear the Democrat-led chamber.

Opponents had argued the bill was not constitutional, but Inslee had said that his staff worked with legal scholars to refine the bill and protect First Amendment rights to free speech.

“Gov. Inslee felt, I believe correctly, the need to bring forward legislation to address something that we never thought could lead to violence in our country and state — a sustained campaign of disinformation about the results of an election and its potential contagion to other electoral results in the future,” Frockt said in a written statement.

Inslee proposed the bill last month, citing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and an incident that same day, when a group breached the gate of his residence in Olympia — which prompted Washington security officials to rush him to a safe room.

The measure would have made it a gross misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, for candidates and elected officials to “knowingly, recklessly, or maliciously” lie about election results that result in violence.

Candidates and elected officials also would have been prohibited from falsely claiming they were entitled to elected positions they did not win and from making false statements that undermine election processes or results.

In addition to the criminal penalties, elected officials would have also faced being removed from office, if convicted.

In a written statement, Inslee said that the inability of the bill to move forward “should not diminish or negate in any way our efforts to save democracy.”

“All of us have that responsibility, and I once again call all legislators to continue to vocally and forcefully call out those who are lying about elections to subvert democracy,” he wrote.

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