Washington governor Jay Inslee recently spoke to lawmakers regarding passing a bill that would make it a misdemeanour for elected officials or candidates to lie about election results in case the statements lead to violence.
This comes days after the state senate sanctioned a bill that allows five years in prison to those who harass poll workers. The bill cited the surge in verbal and physical violence against election workers since the presidential elections of 2020.
According to Associated Press, Inslee stated that the bill discussed in the Senate Government and Elections Committee on January 28, 2022, “confronts an unrelenting threat that is a clear and present danger in our society.”
If candidates or elected persons are convicted of “knowingly, recklessly, or maliciously making false statements regarding the election process or election results to produce lawless action, undermine election processes or results, or falsely claim entitlement to public office,” the wrongdoer will be charged with misdemeanour under the bill.
According to the bill, any convicted official would then be directed to resign from their office. Furthermore, a report by AP also states that a conviction could result in up to one year of prison and a $5,000 penalty fine.
According to a report by Newsweek, the governor cited the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots during the announcement of the bill earlier this month. The rampage had led to five fatalities. The governor cited the deaths as a noteworthy example of false claims by elected officials that resulted in mass violence.
According to AP, Inslee further added, “the big lie, that we can’t trust our democracy to count the votes, has become a weapon, and that weapon is being used all over America, including right here in our state and it will again incite violence.”
Critics in the committee have called the bill unconstitutional for violating an individual’s right to freedom of speech.
In response to the opposition, Inslee added that the bill was written and refined after seeking legal advice from scholars to help it remain in alignment with legal precedents.