Efforts to deceive are a top concern among state election officials heading into 2024

by Lucas Garcia
Election misinformation

As state election officials gear up for the 2024 elections, attempts at public deception continue to be a paramount concern. In recent interviews, numerous state secretaries cited misinformation and the rise of generative AI tools, capable of crafting false and misleading content, as significant issues.

These concerns were discussed at the annual summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington, where other topics included the recruitment of staff and the loss of experienced leaders at the local level. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon emphasized the importance of planning for these potential problems.

State election officials from Michigan and Colorado expressed specific worry about the misuse of AI by foreign adversaries aiming to interfere in U.S. elections. They mentioned deepfakes, manipulated videos where individuals appear to say things they never did, as a specific threat.

Colorado’s Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, has assembled a task force to strategize against potential risks, especially after the tumultuous 2020 presidential election. Michigan’s Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, called for federal regulations mandating the disclosure of AI-generated content and increasing public awareness about this issue.

Despite a recent court order limiting the power of federal agencies to contact social media companies regarding false or deceptive content, some state election officials remain undeterred. Arizona’s Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes, plans to continue conversations to combat misinformation.

Ohio’s Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, and others mentioned several tactics to fight misinformation that do not involve contact with social media companies. One such strategy involves marking and reposting misleading social media content to alert the public of its falsehood.

However, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner voiced concerns about the federal government being the source of misinformation, supporting House Republicans’ investigation into federal agencies’ activities before the 2020 presidential election.

Meanwhile, staffing remains a concern for officials in Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In Pennsylvania, the turnover of local election overseers, due to retirements and high stress levels, is worrisome. Chief Election Official Al Schmidt voiced fears about the potential mistakes less experienced workers might make.

The conference also marked the first gathering since some Republicans decided to withdraw from a bipartisan effort to improve voter list accuracy and detect fraud, causing concern among their Democratic peers.

In response to conspiracy theories surrounding its purpose and funding, some Republicans have left the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and are creating an alternative system for data sharing between states. However, several Democratic officials expressed disinterest in any alternative to ERIC and encouraged more states to join.

Amid these concerns, the conference’s main focus remained on sharing best practices to improve elections. The officials agreed to put partisan differences aside to collaborate. They also discussed other initiatives like improving voting access for active-duty military and aiding voters with hearing impairments.

State officials emphasized their unity and mutual inspiration despite their disagreements. As New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver stated, they commonly “steal” ideas from each other to implement effective programs in their respective states.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Election misinformation

What are the main concerns of state election officials ahead of the 2024 elections?

The key concerns include efforts to deceive the public about voting and elections, the emergence of generative AI tools creating false and misleading content, the staffing of election offices, and the loss of experienced leaders overseeing elections at the local level.

What is being done to counter the misuse of AI in spreading election misinformation?

Some states, like Colorado and Michigan, are calling for federal regulations requiring disclosures of AI-generated content, boosting public awareness, and exploring measures to mitigate potential risks. For instance, Colorado has set up a working group to strategize about these risks.

What are some strategies to fight misinformation that do not involve social media companies?

Some state election officials, such as Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, have advocated for proactive measures like marking and reposting misleading social media content to alert the public to its falsehood.

How are staffing concerns being addressed in preparation for the 2024 elections?

In Pennsylvania, concerns about staffing, particularly due to considerable turnover among those overseeing local elections, are being addressed, although specifics of the strategies were not discussed in the article.

What is the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), and why did some officials leave it?

The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) is a bipartisan effort aimed at improving the accuracy of voter lists and identifying fraud. Some Republican officials left ERIC following conspiracy theories surrounding its funding and purpose, and are working on an alternative system for sharing data among individual states.

More about Election misinformation

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John D July 15, 2023 - 6:22 pm

Let’s hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Important to keep our elections fair and square.

Maggie K July 15, 2023 - 7:18 pm

it’s scary to think people could be fooled by these deepfakes! We need more education on this, ASAP.

Jameson R July 15, 2023 - 11:33 pm

Wow! Its crazy how much AI’s causing concerns in our elections. Never would’ve thought of it before.

Phil G July 16, 2023 - 3:09 am

Losing experienced leaders is a big deal, can’t just replace experience overnight. Hope they have a plan for this.

Sharon P July 16, 2023 - 6:21 am

Are we sure AI’s the main problem, not just ppl lying in general?


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