Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Thursday that he will advance a bill that makes lying or spreading lies about free and fair elections by elected officials a gross misdemeanor, if those lies have the likelihood to stoke violence. The law would also apply to candidates for elected office.
“It’s yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Inslee said to reporters on Thursday.
“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,” Inslee said in a published statement on his governmental website on Thursday.
“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.
“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.”
Inslee cited the court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). In that case, it was found that speech that supports law-breaking or violence in general is protected by the First Amendment unless it directly encourages people to take an unlawful action immediately. More about that case at this link.
Inslee is a governor who rules with a heavy hand. In May of 2021, he ordered workplaces in Washington State to not only check employee vaccination documents, but to force employee badges to show their vaccination status, in violation of their health privacy. More about that illegal action at this link.
Washington state has been a hotspot for lawless behavior by Antifa, Black Lives Matter, anarchists, and other leftist groups during the months leading up to the 2020 election. Those activities gained national attention as leftists took over a section of downtown Seattle, vandalized and set fire to buildings, and clashed with police for weeks on end.
But rather than focus on actual lawlessness, Inslee’s new bill is aimed at conservatives who have legitimate concerns about the security of the election process.