WASHINGTON - At a Senate Rules Committee hearing titled, “AI and the Future of our Elections,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, highlighted the need to address the risks posed by AI to our democracy. 

 “Like any emerging technology, AI comes with significant risks, and our laws need to keep up,” said Klobuchar. “Today, we're here to focus and hone in on a particular risk of AI - that's the risk that it poses for our elections... Given the stakes for our democracy, we cannot afford to wait.”

 A transcript of Klobuchar’s full opening statement is available below. Video is available for online viewing HERE.

I'm pleased to be here with my colleague, Senator Fischer…thank you, as well, Senator Merkley, for being here. I know we have other members attending as well. And I want to thank Ranking Member Fischer and your staff for working with us on this hearing on artificial intelligence and the future of our elections.

I want to introduce… our witnesses shortly, but we're joined by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, who has vast experience running elections and is well respected in our state and nationally. Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center, and former FEC commissioner and Chair, thank you for being here. Maya Wiley, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

And we're also going to hear, I know that Ranking Member Fisher will be introducing our two remaining witnesses. We thank you for being here, Neil Chilson, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity, and Ari Cohn, Free Speech Counsel at TechFreedom.

Like any emerging technology, AI comes with significant risks, and our laws need to keep up. Some of the risks are already clear, starting with security, which includes protecting our critical infrastructure, guarding against cyber attacks, staying ahead of foreign adversaries. We must also protect our innovation economy, including the people who produce content, and countering the alarming rise in criminals using AI to scam people.

Confronting these issues is a major bipartisan focus here in the Senate, where two weeks ago, we convened the first in a series of forums organized by Leader Schumer and Senators Round and Young and Senator Heinrich to discuss this technology with experts of all backgrounds, industry union, nonprofit, across the spectrum in their views.

Today, we're here to focus and hone in on a particular risk of AI - that's the risk that it poses for our elections, and how we address them. Given the stakes for our democracy, we cannot afford to wait. So the hope is we can move on some of this by year-end with some of the legislation which already has bipartisan support to be able to get it done with some larger legislation.

As I noted, we're already seeing this technology being used to generate viral misleading content to spread disinformation and deceive voters. There was an AI-generated video, for instance, posted on Twitter of one of my colleagues, Senator Warren, in which a fake Senator Warren said that people from the opposing party shouldn't be able to vote. She never said that, but it looked like her. The video was seen by nearly 200,000 users in a week.

And AI-generated content has already begun to appear in political ads. There was an AI-generated image of former President Trump hugging Dr. Fauci that was actually a fake. The problem for voters is that people aren't going to be able to distinguish if it's the opposing candidate or their own candidate, if it's them talking or not, that is untenable in a democracy.

Plus, new services like BanterAI have hit the market, which can create voice recordings that sound like President Biden or other elected officials from either party. This means that anyone with a computer can put words in the mouth of a leader. That would pose a problem during an emergency situation like a natural disaster, and it is not hard to imagine it being used to confuse people.

We also must remember that the risks posed by AI are not just about candidates. It's also about people being able to vote. In the Judiciary hearing I actually just simply asked ChatGPT to write me a tweet about a polling location in Bloomington, Minnesota. I noted that sometimes there were lines at that location, what should voters do? And it just quickly spit out, “go to 1234 Elm Street.” There is no such location in Bloomington, Minnesota. So you have the problem of that too, more likely to occur as we get closer to an election.

With AI, the rampant disinformation we have seen in recent years will quickly grow in quantity and quality. We need guardrails to protect our elections. So what do we do? And I hope that'll be some of the subjects in addition to admiring the problem that we can discuss today.

Senator Hawley and I worked over the last two months on a bill together that we are leading together. Hold your beer, that's correct. On a bill that we're leading together to get at deep fake videos like the ones I just talked about, used against former President Trump, used against Elizabeth Warren. Those are ads that aren't really the people. Senator Collins and Senator Coons, Senator Bennet, Senator Ricketts have joined us already on that bill. We just introduced it and it creates a framework that is constitutionally all right based on past and recent precedent, with exceptions for things like parody and satire, that allows those to be banned.

Another key part of transparency when it comes to this technology is disclaimers for other types of ads. That is another bill, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is leading it in the House, which would require disclaimer on ads that include AI-generated images so at least voters know that AI is being used in the campaign ads.

And finally I see Commissioner Dickerson out there. Finally, it is important that the Federal Election Commission be doing their part in taking on these threats. While the FEC is now accepting public comments on whether it can regulate the deceptive AI-generated campaign ads after deadlocking on the issue earlier this summer, we must remain focused on taking action in time for the next election. So, whether you agree or not agree that the FEC currently has the power to do that, there's nothing wrong with spelling it out if that is the barrier. So we're working with Republicans on that issue as well.

So I kind of look at it in three prongs, the most egregious that must be banned with the constitutional limitations, the disclaimers, and then giving the FEC the power that they need as well as a host of state laws, one of which I'm sure we'll hear about from Secretary Steve Simon.

With bipartisan cooperation put in place we will get the guardrails that we need. We can harness the potential of AI, the great opportunities, while controlling the threats we now see emerging and safeguard our democracy from those who would use this technology to spread disinformation and upend our elections, whether it is abroad or whether it is domestic.

I believe strongly in the power of elections. I also believe in innovation, and we have got to be able to draw that line to allow voters to vote and make good decisions, while at least putting the guardrails in place. With that, I turn it over to my friend Senator Fischer. Thank you.