Measure Would Ban Disinformation About Voting Rules, Deadlines
Oregon lawmakers are advancing a measure that would penalize attempts to mislead voters by giving out false information about election dates and ballot deadlines.
Oregon law already prohibits intentionally spreading lies about candidates or ballot measures. This bill would extend that ban to deliberately false statements about the election process itself.
“This is a different kind of harm than disinformation about an opposing candidate or a ballot measure," said Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene. "It can impact how much trust people have in the system and in their ability to participate in their democracy.”
Violators could face a fine of up to $10,000. The measure easily passed the Oregon House and now heads to the Senate.
Fahey said the ban would extend to social media, as well as robocalls and traditional mailers. While she said there has not been a big problem with this kind of disinformation in Oregon, she cited several examples of it in other states during recent election cycles.
Those include attempts to lie about the date of an election, as well as the deadline to register to vote.
Oregon's vote-by-mail system means that anyone with a mailing address gets information about how to register and how to vote directly from official sources prior to each election.
The bill would also create policies about materials that appear similar to the official Voters' Pamphlets that are mailed to homes prior to an election. Some organizations have sent materials to voters that are produced in the style of a voters' pamphlet. The bill would require these so-called "imitation voters' pamphlets" to print, in all caps, "THIS IS NOT THE OFFICIAL VOTERS' PAMPHLET," and to superimpose the word "UNOFFICIAL" diagonally across each page.