Suppress the Vote With Lies? Sure, Go AheadThe Denver Post is out with an editorial that proudly supports the defeat of Senate Bill 147, which would have made it a felony to spread falsehoods about election procedures or voter eligibility. Their reasoning? Outlawing false speech has a chilling effect on non-false speech. What?
Let’s be clear: In no way do we condone robocalls that attempt to scare voters from the polls, or efforts to undermine voters’ belief in their eligibility to cast a ballot.
Our concerns center on the chilling effect of criminalizing speech. It is easy to envision how such a law, if it had passed, could have been used to threaten not only the dishonorable, but even well-intentioned voter participation advocates who maybe weren’t exactly right in summarizing complex election law.
Why does it matter? Free speech is a precious constitutional right, and any law that attempts to curb that right — particularly one that makes speech a felony — must be considered very carefully. …
The best defense against such deception is an informed electorate. Voters must take steps to root out the truth, and the media can help them.Instead of outlawing the deception and trickery involved in voter suppression, the Denver Post Editorial Board thinks the speech of voter supressionists is so important that they’re willing to sacrifice the right to vote for people who don’t happen to be informed enough not to believe liars.
(Denver Post Editorial Board. March 22, 2012. Punish lies at the ballot box. Denver Post.)
Instead of saying “You’re going to jail for telling students they can’t vote until Wednesday,” they’re saying “Sure, suppress the vote by bowing to false claims by unknown special interests, we think struggling media outlets with shrinking newsroom budgets and owned by just a handful of companies with their own interests at heart can make sure voters are informed.”
Not very compelling.