Oregon lawmakers have advanced an elections bill to prohibit knowingly and purposefully spreading wrong information about how to participate in the voting process.
Members of the Democratic-controlled Oregon state House of Representatives approved the measure by a bipartisan 54-3 vote Monday, with three abstaining. The few who opposed the bill are Republicans.
Oregon state Rep. Julie Fahey, the main sponsor of the bill, House Bill 2323, said her proposed legislation covers a gap in current law “that makes our elections more vulnerable to misinformation.”
State law currently prohibits intentionally spreading bad information about a candidate or ballot measure, but it does not apply to sharing lies about ballot access and voting methods, Ms. Fahey said.
“Is it too late to register? Where can I drop my ballot? Can people with prior felony convictions vote? These are all things that Oregonians who are busy with their daily lives just might not know,” she said moments before the vote occurred.
“In this context, lies about ballot access and voting methods can have serious consequences,” Ms. Fahey added. “This is a different kind of harm than disinformation about an opposing candidate or a ballot measure. It can impact how much trust people have in the system and in their ability to participate in their democracy.”
Ms. Fahey, a Democrat representing West Eugene and Junction City, said her measure would prohibit spreading misinformation done with the specific intent of misleading Oregonians about an election.
“It does not cover incorrect information shared by mistake or in good faith,” Ms. Fahey stressed while speaking about her bill shortly before the House vote.
The measure covers misinformation spread online and by phone, and violators would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. It has not yet been considered in the state Senate.
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