After extensive deliberation, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee has advanced a bipartisan bill addressing the use of Artificial Intelligence in electioneering. This legislation, known as HB 426, co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, and House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, now heads to the full House for a vote.

Navigating the Complexities of AI in Elections

The bill’s primary focus is to mandate disclosures for AI-generated messages that impersonate political candidates. It aims to mitigate the risks posed by realistic AI-generated “deep fakes,” which can potentially undermine the integrity of elections. Rubel emphasized the gravity of this issue, stating, “The potential for this to undermine our elections is staggering.”

Under HB 426, candidates who are misrepresented by manipulated media have the right to seek judicial relief, including the removal of such media. The bill also allows for actual and punitive damages, the latter being subject to a judge’s or jury’s discretion. Rep. Joe Alfieri, R-Coeur d’Alene, expressed concerns over the timeliness of legal recourse and advocated for substantial monetary penalties as deterrents.

Defining the Scope and Penalties

The committee debated various aspects of the bill, such as the definition of an affected candidate and the timeframe of the law’s application. Existing Idaho code already provides a framework for identifying what constitutes electioneering communication. However, lawmakers like Reps. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, and Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, raised concerns about the bill’s applicability outside election years.

A key challenge in crafting the bill has been balancing the need for regulation with First Amendment protections. Rubel, recognizing the delicate nature of this issue, designed the bill to align with similar legislation in other states to avoid constitutional conflicts.

Bipartisan Agreement and Ongoing Discussions

Despite their usual differences, Skaug and Rubel have found common ground on this bill. Skaug urged the committee to pass the bill without amendments, while other members suggested returning it to the sponsors for further refinement.

Acknowledging the broader implications of AI in various domains, Rubel remarked, “We are probably going to have to pass 50 bills on AI before the end of next year.” This statement underscores the legislative challenges posed by rapidly evolving AI technologies.