OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee’s novel and controversial proposal to tamp down on election lies by candidates and elected officials will not move forward this year.

Senate Bill 5843 would create a gross misdemeanor penalty for elected officials or candidates who “knowingly, recklessly or maliciously” lie about results of an election if those falsehoods led to violence.

The idea drew national attention and debate over whether it would violate First Amendment protections on free speech, as well as claims that the bill would criminalize speech.

On Tuesday, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, a sponsor of the legislation requested by Inslee, acknowledged the bill won’t move forward this year.

“We have to respect that the bill in its current form did not have enough support to advance despite the care we took in its drafting through our consultation with leading First Amendment scholars,” Frockt said in a statement.

The governor unveiled the outline of his proposal on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.


On that same day last year, demonstrators in Olympia breached the gates of the governor’s residence and chanted slogans on his lawn, sending Inslee to a secure location.

In his remarks on the Jan. 6 anniversary, the governor spoke forcefully about former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The former president, Inslee said, “is still intent on continuing this coup effort.”

Some in the GOP have also embraced election-fraud conspiracies in the 2020 race in which Inslee defeated Republican challenger Loren Culp.

Culp after the election filed a legal challenge alleging fraud by then-Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, who was then the state’s top elections official. That lawsuit was ultimately withdrawn after Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would seek legal sanctions against Culp’s attorney for making meritless claims in a court of law.

In a statement Tuesday, Inslee said, “We all still have a responsibility to act against this Big Lie.

“This is one approach the Legislature chose not to take, but we must continue to explore ways to fight the dangerous deceptions politicians are still promoting about our elections,” the governor continued.


Lawmakers this year are considering other legislation geared toward securing and improving elections.

Another bill sponsored by Frockt, Senate Bill 5148, would increase the crime of harassment to a Class C felony when that action is aimed at election officials working with county auditor offices, which administer elections, or the Secretary of State’s office.

Senate Bill 5817, also sponsored by Frockt, would mandate disclosure of the use of synthetic media — like “deep fakes” that manipulate video or audio or a person’s appearance or remarks — in election campaigns.

Senate Bill 5597, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, would expand Washington’s Voting Rights Act.

All three of these bills have passed the Senate and move to the state House for consideration. The legislative session is scheduled to end March 10.