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Senate Rules advances three AI election bills

Justin Papp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other Democrats put it in no uncertain terms Wednesday: Congress must act fast to ward off threats to U.S. elections posed by deceptive artificial intelligence.

“If we’re not careful, AI has the potential to jaundice or even totally discredit our election systems,” Schumer said at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee markup. “If deepfakes are everywhere and no one believes the results of the elections, woe is our democracy. This is so damn serious.”

His words came directly on the heels of the release of a new AI “road map,” drafted by Schumer and a bipartisan group of his Senate colleagues. The 31-page document calls for billions of dollars in investment into AI research and development and highlights policy priorities for committees to pursue.

Along those lines, Senate Rules advanced three bills out of committee at Wednesday’s markup that would prohibit the distribution of deceptive AI in campaigns for federal office, require disclaimers when AI is used, and require the Election Assistance Commission to develop guidelines on the uses and risks of AI.

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules panel, cited “chilling” examples of deceptive AI and deepfakes already deployed in recent years.

In 2023, the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis circulated images purporting to show former President Donald Trump hugging former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci. And during this year’s New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, a robocall went around to voters that sounded exactly like President Joe Biden telling voters to stay home.

 

“This is a hair in the fire moment, and here’s why — AI has the potential to turbocharge the spread of disinformation and deceive voters,” Klobuchar said. “Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, no one wants to see these fake ads or robocalls.”

Klobuchar is right that there is broad, bipartisan consensus on the risks of AI.

Schumer worked with Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Mike Rounds of South Dakota on the AI road map. And Klobuchar’s bill to protect against deceptive AI in elections was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

But in committee that bill, as well as legislation to increase the transparency of AI in political ads, faced opposition from GOP senators. Both advanced on party-line 9-2 votes.

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