Democratic Governor Calls For Criminalizing “Lying” About Election Results

For years, I have lamented how the Democratic party has embraced censorship and the criminalization of speech. I come from a liberal Democratic family in Chicago and the Democratic Party once championed free speech as the defining value of the party. Democratic politicians now lead calls for censorship to silence their opponents and corporate regulations to protect citizens from dangerous choices in reading material. The same concerns were raised this week after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for the criminalization of “lies” about election results. Inslee wants to convict people who raise election challenges or allegations. Such a law would threaten political speech and create a chilling effect for those who want to raise such concerns in contested elections.

 

Inslee made his comments as part of the Jan. 6th anniversary. It appears to follow Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s directive for Democrats to “preserve the narrative” of that day. According to the Seattle Times, Inslee declared that “it should not be legal in the state of Washington for elected officials or candidates for office to willfully lie about these election results.”  He would make such comments a gross misdemeanor subject to incarceration.

Such a criminal law would be ripe for abuse and would create a chilling effect that would be positively glacial. We have seen other Democratic leaders use the criminal process in similarly reckless fashions.

This country has a long history of election fraud from Tammany Hall in New York to the Daley machine in Chicago. Raising doubts over such elections often forces greater public scrutiny and marshals resources to contest results.  Indeed, Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias have challenged Republican victories as he and others denounced such GOP challenges as attacks on democracy.

Inslee’s proposals raise the same questions that we discussed in relation to “stolen valor” laws. I have previously criticized past prosecutions for stolen valor (here and here) as a threat to the first amendment. The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act. In United States v. Alvarez, the Court held 6-3 that it is unconstitutional to criminalize lies — in that case lying about receiving military decorations or medals.

Inslee insisted that there would have to be “knowledge that there’s potential to create violence” for it to be considered a gross misdemeanor. What does that even mean?  Any prosecutor could allege that a claim of election fraud was inviting another “Jan. 6th insurrection.”  The claim itself would be treated as incitement. Indeed, this seems like an effort to evade the constitutional limits placed on incitement crimes by the courts.

The Inslee law would create a new and vague category for violent speech. In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that even calling for violence is protected under the First Amendment unless there is a threat of “imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

In this law, questioning elections (rather than calling for violence) would be treated as a crime based on its “potential for violence.” It would, in my view, be dangerously and flagrantly unconstitutional.

The “knowledge of the potential of violence” is such a nonsensical standard that it only magnifies the threat to free speech — and the underlying political motivation — in such legislation.  Would such knowledge be shown by making the claim in a rally or protest? Would it depend on the actions of third parties or prior violent protests?

In Afghanistan, the Taliban just arrested a professor for “trying to instigate people against the system and was playing with the dignity of the people.” What is the difference between questioning election results with “knowledge of the potential of violence” and “trying to instigate people against the system”? At least the Taliban are open about their legislating orthodoxy.

Free speech demands bright lines. Ambiguity in the criminalization of speech creates the very chilling effect that the courts have sought to deter under our Constitution.  In Lamont v. Postmaster-General, the Court invalidated a federal law requiring written request to receive communist political material “because of [a] possible chilling effect on [the] willingness of identified recipients to receive ‘communist political propaganda.'” In Smith v. California, the Supreme Court defined “chilling effect” as the “collateral effect of inhibiting the freedom of expression, by making the individual the more reluctant to exercise it.”

That is precisely what such an ambiguous law would do in Washington State.

 

119 thoughts on “Democratic Governor Calls For Criminalizing “Lying” About Election Results”

  1. Beijing does not like free speech. Therefore, the globalists do not like free speech. Therefore, the Chamber of Commerce does not like free speech. Therefore, the Democrats do not like free speech. Follow the money. Exploiting cheap Asian labor is now the only human right–for those that can afford it.

  2. As I read the introduction to this piece, my initial reaction was ‘thank God Inslee did not succeed in his quest for the presidential nomination.’ Who put this idea in his head?

    1. good idea. sounds like something trump would support: “crime to tell people the election wasn’t stolen.”

      1. Except that he gave that very scenario – Clinton and her supporters saying they believed he had stolen the 2016 election – and he never got a moment suggested criminalizing their behavior. It appears you might be among the many for whom the Trump in your mind is both a bogeyman and not at all like the Trump who actually exists

  3. One thing about the Dems they telegraph what they’ve done or plan to do. If they’ve done it blame the opposition, if they plan doing lay the ground work. Their in the tank with the majority of Americans and if the midterm is held without manipulation they are history. What’s the latest cry du jour it’s “election”, For the People, John Lewis bill, illegals should be allowed to vote, mail in’s because of the new “CoviFlu”, don’t challenge elections it’s criminal. If they lose it will because the Republicans colluded with Martians or peed on a bed in a hotel on Venus. They want one party rule – their party.

  4. “the Democratic Party once championed free speech as the defining value of the party.

    Democrats and Free Speech?”

    R.I.P.

  5. If election laws and regulations were written intelligently, there would be no room for questioning the results !
    But then, you can’t please all the people all the time . . .

  6. So what? Rs constantly propose laws to criminalize true speech that they don’t like and JT never says a peep.

  7. The claims that it okay for Facebook and such to censor speech because they are not the government continue to fascinate me.

    First of all, our government is supposed to DEFEND our rights, not merely to refrain from infringing them. How many times has the government put an individual or company on trial for “depriving a citizen of their civil rights” and sent them to prison when found guilty? Derek Chauvin, for instance, for depriving George Floyd for his right to life. A baking company for depriving a gay couple of their right of free expression on a cake. Is free speech not a “civil right” the same as life and lettering on a cake?

    We have only those rights that we can defend. If we do not defend them they do not exist. The government seems to feel they are only supposed to defend our rights selectively, and if they won’t then we must. If we don’t then those rights cease to be rights. They become priviledges, granted at whim.

    It astonishes me that government fails to force Facebook and others to preserve our freedom of speech and not only do we not condemn government for defending us, we complain that they are not failing us sufficiently and should fail us to a greater degree.

    1. Are you a lawyer? I hope not. Private organizations like Facebook have the right to refuse to publish or not publish what they choose. Republicans fought long and hard to exempt private companies from government regulation in all areas including without limitation cable news and the internet. Now that their ox is being gored…lying not allowed….they want the government to regulate corporations! Interesting.

      1. If they’re a common carrier, that entities them to the tax regs that they insist apply to them. But it also obligates then to be content neutral. Republicans have not, as far as I’m aware, defended any “right” for an EDITOR/PUBLISHER , which is what they behave as when they censor content, to behave as if they’re a common carrier.

    2. “It astonishes me that government fails to force Facebook and others to preserve our freedom of speech . . .”

      So when an individual or company refuses to publish your ideas or speech, that is a violation of your “rights?!” Please do explain the “right” that permits you to compel them to publicize your ideas. And does such coercion apply just to social media companies, or to everyone — newspapers, radio and TV, publishers, blog hosts, et al.?

      1. Common carrier versus publisher. That’s the difference. Pick one – each has its benefits and obligations.

        1. “Common carrier versus publisher.”

          “Common carrier” is a collectivist rationalization for destroying a company’s property rights. It allows bureaucrats to control companies, and to compel them to do business with the bureaucrats’ favored group. It treats a company as merely an appendage of the state.

          It’s tragic to see conservatives, who allegedly favor limited government and liberty, use a collectivist idea that is in fact a naked power grab.

  8. I hope Stacy, Al, Alyssa, Hillary, Joy, Don, Sandy and all the rest enjoy their orange pajamas, then. As per Darren, smartest in the room, indeed. I hope enough of us have had enough.

  9. So then the logical conclusion is that the governor believes Biden should step down. 🙂 No?

  10. This proposed law reminds me of what is called “hate speech”–which also is ambiguous and is often used as an epithet to shut down contrary views.

  11. I would suggest that this proposed law by Gov. Inslee places him clearly in the 8th level of self actualized stupidity.

  12. Just read Darren’s excellent column on stupidity.

    Most of our resident Lefties qualify as “militantly stupid”.

    While most of us are patient, that excellent list shows the futility of our debating with them.

    1. Monument……well said! Spot on!

      I found that article to be very well written….and quite polite.

      I am a follower of Mark Twain and Will Rogers….Men well ahead of their time who spoke to such issues but did so in a much simpler manner.

      The usual manner of those you mention is they follow Saul Alinsky rather than Twain and Rogers.

      Personal attacks and insults is their preferred method….thinking falsely that approach works in persuading people to come around to their way of thinking.

      Trey Gowdy made a Speech at Liberty University that those on the Left who attend here might view and carefully consider.

      They might find his ideas work better than does Saul Alinsky’s methods.

      Start your viewing at 7:40 to skip over the introduction and begin your viewing where Gowdy begins.

  13. Naturally, the Dems would want carve-outs for people like “Governor” Stacy Abrams.

    The point is that the Dems would apply the law unequally, the same way a riot in Minneapolis is “mostly peaceful “, while the same riot in DC is an insurrection.

    These people are either stupid or they are trying to impose tyranny.

  14. This idea is just a dry run for the big enchilada coming our way: criminalizing any speech that questions the science behind climate change hysteria. Inslee is a leading voice of the “existential crisis” crowd. Get ready folks. It is coming.

    1. Dennis, I agree.
      All of this is jesting how far the masses can be pushed. Yesterdays SCOTUS arguments really opened the eyes of any people paying attention. The shocking display by Kegan and Breyer, of raw attempts at setting the “team narrative” Was only shocking because they are supposed to be so learned, and logical, but devolved quickly into the lies pushed by the White House. I’m no lawyer, but I was instructed by a lawyer, that to cite numbers is stupid, and opens you to impeachment unless the numbers are absolutely certain.
      Guns as a health pandemic
      ACGCC is a health pandemic
      Racism is a health pandemic
      Poverty is a health pandemic
      The ground work has been in progress for a long time.

      1. Dennis and Iowan2, I agree.

        The left has become tyrannical, and the vaccine mandates are the test cases for the use of federal executive power to control our lives. As lower courts held, they were unlawful even during the predominance of Delta. Now that Omicron is the dominant variant they are absurd, literally. Omicron is far less pathogenic than Delta. It spreads readily among the vaccinated and boosted. There is evidence that over time vaccination may be negatively effective, that is, as time passes you may be more likely to get Omicron if you are vaccinated than unvaccinated. How vaccine mandates can make sense in this context is impossible to understand.

        It is a very small step from these mandates for a tyrannical federal executive branch to take control of our lives to combat the “existential” threat of climate change or the health and social crisis of “systemic racism.” With regard to the latter, the warm-up over 50 years has been the ever widening practice of reverse discrimination. We are now seeing that in the allocation of resources, such as benefits to farmers and monoclonal antibodies. And the indoctrination taking place in our schools is conditioning future generations to view this as right and proper.

        The war on “systemic racism” challenges the fundamental notion that there are criteria appropriate to spheres of activity that promote the effectiveness of those activities. The argument is that if these criteria result in representation of blacks below their proportion of the population then racism is at work. So rather than enhancing the ability of blacks to meet the criteria, the criteria are ditched. This is promoting what Glenn Loury calls the “bias” narrative over the “development” narrative. In the end, it will result in massive economic losses, the spread of incompetence and social division.

        The only way these tendencies can be slowed or ended is through the defeat of Democrats at every level of government (I say this as someone who used to vote Democrat and contributed to Kerry’s campaign in 2004) and clear decisions by the judicial branch about the limits of federal executive power and the illegality of reverse discrimination.

        I now fear that the left has no intention of relinquishing power. I assume that Manchin and Sinema will oppose ending the filibuster, so the left’s federal takeover of election law to facilitate fraud will fail. I also assume their efforts to disqualify Republican candidates as insurrectionists under the 14th amendment will also fail. Their propagandistic attacks on challenges to the integrity of the 2020 election and on reasonable election security measures as insurrection and voter suppression are preludes to their rejection of the results of 2022 and 2024. If they lose the presidency in 2024, especially if it’s to Trump but possibly also if it’s to someone like DeSantis, they will make efforts to use the military, FBI and CIA to prevent the transition of power, because the election will be said to have been illegitimate and tantamount to a coup. The focus on white supremacy as the greatest threat to “our democracy” and the indoctrination taking place throughout the national security establishment is laying the ground for this.

        Five year ago I would have dismissed these thoughts as the ravings of a paranoid lunatic. Public discourse has become so twisted in this country, and, since Biden became President, the state so dictatorial, that I now fear they are correct.

        1. “The only way these tendencies can be slowed or ended is through the defeat of Democrats at every level of government (I say this as someone who used to vote Democrat ”

          No matter how low the office is, one cannot vote for any Democrat. They act like the Borg, so their mindset is hardwired to central control.

          1. S. Meyer,

            “ “The only way these tendencies can be slowed or ended is through the defeat of Democrats at every level of government (I say this as someone who used to vote Democrat ”

            That won’t change anything. What will happen if democrats are completely defeated? Republicans will start their own censorship of anything democrat. Banning books, censoring authors they don’t like just as many republicans are already doing in schools. Censoring Gay people from reading a book to children at a library. Deleting posts from liberals, etc.

            Turley loves to castigate democrats for “attacking” free speech but, says little to nothing about republicans banning books because they don’t like them or because of who wrote them.

            Lying can be harmful or dangerous just as yelling “fire” or “bomb” in a crowded venue.

            Free speech has its limits and the wanton lying about the election being stolen even after the evidence proving it false keeps growing actually harms our Democratic system of governance.

            What if democrats claimed incessantly that the election was stolen and successfully swayed a majority of the population? Would you be ok with that? Republicans seem to be perfectly fine with that all the time. Even when overwhelming evidence shows it’s a lie.

            Lying has never really been an issue for republicans. It’s just an accepted virtue for them.

            1. “What if democrats claimed incessantly that the election was stolen and successfully swayed a majority of the population?”

              They have done so from 2016 to the present.

            2. Svelaz, you are an idiot and even as benign as what you say above, the way you say it, makes you look dumb. The first step needed is to end the Democrat Party of today, so they can turn from Nazi-like to a more productive party that believes in the Constitution and its Amendments. Maybe that would help to make a better Republican Party. I have no problem with legislation and amendments to the Constitution.

              As I explained in another reply you do not understand the Constitution or its reason for existence.

              Go away.

            3. “Free speech has its limits ”

              And there you have it

              Point to any federal statute in the past two decades, sponsored by Republicans, that attempted to censor free speech. Attempting to keep localities from having Drag Queen Story Hour in public libraries – ask yourself the counter: would the (Democrat, pretty well across the board) librarians invite a blatantly conservative man to read to preschoolers in that venue? And is any part of Republican measures to keep drag queen men from doing story hour in public libraries keeping those same drag queen men from reading to the kids on private property?

              Now ask yourself about content censorship at Facebook and Twitter, who want to be considered common carriers.

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