Gov. Jay Inslee released the following statement today announcing his support for legislation currently being written that would outlaw attempts by candidates and elected officials to spread lies about free and fair elections when it has the likelihood to stoke violence.
“January 6 is a reminder not only of the insurrection that happened one year ago, but that there is an ongoing coup attempt by candidates and elected officials to overturn our democracy. They are willing to do this by provoking violence, and today I proposed we do something about that in Washington.
“Soon, legislation will be introduced in the state House and Senate that would make it a gross misdemeanor for candidates and elected officials to knowingly lie about elections. The proposed law is narrowly tailored to capture only those false statements that are made for the purpose of undermining the election process or results and is further limited to lies that are likely to incite or cause lawlessness," Inslee said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that speech can be limited where it is likely to incite lawlessness, Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). Unlike the state supreme court decision in Rickert v. State, Public Disclosure Com’n, 161 Wash.2d 843 (2007), which addresses false statements made by one candidate about another candidate, this legislation is not about what candidates can say about each other.
“This legislation attempts to follow the relevant U.S. and state supreme court opinions on this issue. We’re talking about candidates and elected officers knowingly throwing bombs at democracy itself when doing so is likely to result in violence,” Inslee said. “We can outlaw actions that provoke political violence and in doing so also protect our democracy. There is more that can be done by states and Congress to protect our democracy. I am open to any proposal that will protect the will of the voters and the institutions they use to decide who governs them.”