Elections in the United States are becoming a battleground instead of a civic activity. The “Big Lie” that the Democrats stole the 2020 election continues to be believed by a large majority of the Republican party and possibly some independents. The big lie continues to be projected by Trump and others in 2024, increasing the chance that many believe that violence during and around the elections is justified.
What if candidates of one party declare victory over the protests of election administrators? Declare fraud even before elections are held or after, with no evidence.
Election officials are threatened or harmed, or some refuse to count election results that go against their ideology. Disinformation that occurred in 2020 is even more pernicious due to the use of AI and Deep Fakes. Violent protests are encouraged before, during, or after the Presidential elections.
Ethnic Media Services discussed what they consider the most dangerous threats to the 2024 elections and what is being done about them.
Gowri Ramachandran, Deputy Director of the Elections & Government Program at the Brennan Center said election officials should double down on their efforts to bolster the security and the resilience of election infrastructure to avoid any disruptions to voter access.
Those can occur when there are problems with election equipment, poll worker shortages, or issues with the voter registration database. And what that means is that election officials should engage in practices that help them detect and recover from that disruption,” Gowri Ramachandran, Deputy Director of the Elections & Government Program at the Brennan Center.
With the advent of technology, cyber threats have become a significant concern in electoral processes. Hackers and foreign actors may attempt to disrupt or manipulate election systems, compromising the accuracy and legitimacy of the results. By implementing robust security measures, such as secure voter registration systems and strong encryption protocols, we can mitigate these risks and protect sensitive voter information.
Most states use electronic voting and tabulation systems that are at least a decade old, and many are no longer even manufactured. Election officials report that they must go to eBay to find replacement parts, which in itself poses a security threat.
Registration databases are similarly antiquated, frequently running on unsupported software, which may not receive regular security patches and may be more vulnerable to the latest methods of cyberattacks.
Those aren’t the only problems. States around the country use electronic poll books that are not subject to independent security certification. And every election, poor ballot design and malfunctioning machines lead to confusion, long lines at the polls, and lost votes. These issues hit low-income and minority voters hardest.
Ramachandran said they saw poll worker shortages during the pandemic in 2020, often caused by folks, especially elderly people who often used to volunteer as poll workers or sign up as coworkers.
“Allowing them to enroll in address confidentiality programs, is a great step. Another thing that election officials can do to help their poll workers feel safe is they can request a free physical security assessment of their offices from SISA, which is the federal government’s cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency,” she added.
Nora Benavidez, Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights at Free Press spoke about the impact social media has on elections.
“The biggest tech companies, Meta, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Google’s, you know, search engine and their parent company alphabet finally seem to accept in some ways that their failure to moderate content. Elon Musk has removed all accountability. He removed his board of directors, the Trust and Safety Council, and most of his trust and safety team,” Benavidez said.