Proposed bill makes false claims about elections a gross misdemeanor

Courtesy of | See bottom of story for attribution

Courtesy of | See bottom of story for attribution

Gavin Johnson, Staff Reporter

The Senate State Government and Elections Committee held a public hearing last week regarding a proposed bill that would make it illegal for public officials and candidates to “knowingly make false statements and claims” about state elections or election results.

Titled Senate Bill 5843, the bill would make it a gross misdemeanor for public officials and candidates to make false statements regarding state elections, resulting in the loss of their positions.

A prominent testimony in favor of the bill came from Gov. Jay Inslee, who began the hearing after the bill was introduced.

“This is our future if we do not act,” Inslee said, recalling the events of Jan. 6th, 2021.

Inslee cites the clear and present danger of violence incited by election misinformation as why the law should be passed.

According to testimony by Catherine J. Ross, a law professor who helped construct the bill, SB 5843 is carefully constructed to hold up in court, but she expressed an urgency in getting the bill passed.

However, public testimony by citizens opposed the bill as an overreach of the government. One testimony alleged that the governor was stepping away from his executive power and into legislative power.

The same hearing saw a testimony for an opposing bill aimed at election security and focused on signature verification. The bill, SB 5679, would provide expanded access to “methods that provide the greatest level of confidence” that a citizen is eligible to vote, such as allowing the use of an enhanced driver’s license.

The bill also allows Washington State trooper’s to conduct signature surveys to ensure the accuracy of voter signatures provided when they register to vote.

SB 5679 aims to add more security in voter registration while obtaining a driver’s license.

“You gain confidence and trust when you listen, and you come up with solutions, and my bill is a list of solutions to complaints,” one of the sponsors of SB 5679 Senator Keith Wagoner said in an interview. “That’s how you instill confidence and combat information.”

The hearing was split along party lines, with Democrat senators giving support for SB 5843 while Republican senators support SB 5679.

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