Reining in artificial intelligence, cracking down on “fake elector” schemes and expanding voter access on tribal lands are Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s top priorities for this year’s legislative session.
Griswold, joined by state lawmakers sponsoring the legislation, outlined the measures Thursday afternoon with just weeks to go before Coloradans begin casting ballots in what will surely be another contentious November presidential election. The state’s presidential primaries are March 5, with ballots going out in February.
The elected officials warned that emerging AI technology and potential plots to replace Colorado’s presidential electors — as was attempted in other states by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters after the 2020 election — could pose existential threats to the country’s system of self-governance.
“An attempt to overthrow a free and fair election is an attack on the people of this nation and an attack that undermines the strength of our nation itself,” said state Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, a Pueblo Democrat sponsoring a bill to criminalize schemes to install fraudulent slates of presidential electors.
The bills have not been formally introduced yet in the legislature, which reconvened this month. As described by officials, the draft legislation would:
Require disclaimers on AI-generated media, including manipulated audio and video commonly called deepfakes, that feature Colorado candidates and officeholders. Violators could be subject to campaign finance enforcement and penalties, and the bill would open the perpetrator up to civil action, akin to libel law standards.
Make it a crime to create, or conspire to create, a fake slate of electoral college voters or serve as a fake elector; and bar people convicted under the proposed law from holding future office in Colorado.
Require the Secretary of State’s Office to convene periodic meetings with the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes to discuss voting rights and voting access on tribal lands.
The AI bill comes as deepfakes are already sneaking into political discourse, both in the United States and abroad. Just this week, an apparent deepfake audio clip of President Joe Biden’s voice was allegedly used to deter New Hampshire residents from voting in that state’s first-in-the-nation primary.
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“The future is already here, and the people of Colorado deserve to know what is real and what is manipulated,” said Rep. Junie Joseph, a Boulder Democrat.
Griswold, also a Democrat, said bill supporters were writing it to comply with First Amendment speech protections, while still holding AI election materials to the higher disclosure requirements of current campaign finance law.