States often attempt to regulate political speech in the form of deliberate lies related to ballot initiatives, referenda, candidates, or their political positions. Some courts focus on the various harms of electoral lies, while others focus more on the risks of bias and partisan abuse involved in such speech regulations; the cases are in disarray.
This Article argues, however, that the most important problem underlying this case confusion is inherent in the widely utilized constitutional standard of strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny typically requires a compelling governmental interest, ―narrow tailoring,‖ and some causal relation between the regulation and the compelling interest. The crucial point, though, is that, as this Article documents, each of these elements lends itself to a surprising degree of arbitrariness, judicial subjectivity, uncontrollable complexity, and sheer impracticality. The Article works through these problems, both in the context of electoral lies and much more broadly, and considers two significant possible reforms of standard versions of the judicial strict scrutiny test.