Candidates for public office will have their licenses to lie revoked under Senate Bill 5211, sponsored by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, which passed the Senate this morning. Passed on a 44 to 1 vote, SB 5211 will prohibit political candidates from maliciously sponsoring any false defamatory political speech.
The bill follows a Supreme Court decision on a case stemming from Sheldon’s 2002 re-election campaign, in which an opponent’s political brochure containing false information about Sheldon’s voting record was ruled as protected speech.
“The Supreme Court ruling leaves the door open for any candidate to lie about opponents with impunity, and now we have the responsibility to slam that door shut,” said Sheldon. “Voters hate being lied to by politicians.”
Sheldon’s proposal would put Washington in line with several other states with similar laws prohibiting defamation in campaign speech.
A similar measure, House Bill 1286, was passed last week by the House on a 92-2 vote. Both measures face an April 17 deadline to pass in the opposite chamber. The 2009 Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 26.