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Colorado Secretary of State sets sight on 'deepfakes,' expanding voter access this legislative session

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 19:49:51-05

DENVER — Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Thursday highlighted her priorities for this year's legislative session, which include artificial intelligence (AI) transparency and enforcement as well as expanding voter access on tribal lands.

Griswold is championing a package of bills to tighten the state's election security. A bill promoting AI transparency was introduced Monday, while other bills are set to be introduced in the coming days.

The AI transparency bill focuses on "deepfakes," which use AI technology to manipulate a person's actions or speech. These deepfakes can then be used to spread disinformation.

House Bill 24-1147 would require a disclosure if a deepfake is used in a communication related to a candidate for elective office.

"With deep fakes, which is a manipulation of someone's words or actions, we're going to require a disclaimer so that Coloradans can understand like, 'Hey, this communication I'm seeing is not real in some way or the other. I should double check if the candidate actually said that,'" said Griswold, who supports the bill.

Another bill would create criminal penalties for those who participate in fake elector schemes, which were seen during the 2020 election cycle. It would also bar someone convicted of such a crime from holding office in Colorado.

"When we vote for president, we're not actually voting for one person or the other. We're voting for electors to cast a ballot at the Electoral College for the candidate that wins," explained Griswold. "What happened in 2020 is that Trump and his allies set up false elector slates — so slates of electors that were going to cast the ballot for him, even though he did not win those states."

If the bill makes it through the legislative process, Colorado would be the first state in the country to explicitly ban fake elector schemes, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

Philip Chen, a professor of political science at the University of Denver, said the use of extreme measures to interfere with elections is an indicator of how contentious politics has become in the United States.

"What you've got is a lot of intense pressure to perform well in an election," said Chen. "And so, it's looking for any slight advantage that you can have. And one thing that may happen are these kinds of deepfakes or use of AI technologies."

Some election interference schemes aim to keep certain populations from voting. A bill that is currently being drafted would ensure Native Americans in Colorado have access to voting.

"This bill requires periodic meetings between the Secretary of State’s Office and the Tribes on voting rights and voting access for the first time ever in Colorado," a spokesperson for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office wrote in a news release. "This ensures Tribal Nations in Colorado will always have a seat at the table when it comes to safe and accessible elections in Colorado."

Colorado Secretary of State sets sight on 'deepfakes' this legislative session