Officials claim that misinformation is a bigger threat to election integrity in the U.S. and far outweighs the threat that may be posed by voter fraud or foreign hackers.
“I believe that the biggest vulnerability is disinformation, that these machines are not functioning in the way that they were intended,” said Thomas Hicks, who was nominated as Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Commissioner by former President Obama, during an online event on Thursday put on as a collaborative effort by several organizations: Freedom House, the Bush Institute, Issue One and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
A former President Trump nominee, EAC Chairman Donald Palmer echoed his sentiments in a statement to The Hill on Friday.
“Our systems are secure, and they have been tested and are secure, and the misinformation about those systems, that hurts voter confidence,” Palmer explained.
Claims of election fraud have swelled over the past several years, leading to diminished confidence in the system. In fact, a large number of Republican voters believe President Joe Biden won by fraudulent votes.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) June 9, 2021
The lack of confidence has spread even beyond the U.S. borders. The niece of Osama bin Laden flew a “Trump won” flag near Geneva, Switzerland back in June. On a trip to Guatemala, Vice President Kamala Harris was trolled with similar sentiments when she was greeted with a sign that read, “Kamala, TRUMP WON.”
Although the results of the Arizona election audit have been largely disputed by election officials, the Cyber Ninjas audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County found there were 74,243 mail-in ballots received, “where there is no clear record of them being sent” to voters. With Biden only winning Arizona by 10,457 votes, the discrepancy casts a dark shadow on the results.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) July 16, 2021
However, officials say they have made efforts to increase the security of voting equipment.
In February 2020, the EAC updated its guidelines, formally known as the “Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines 2.0,” which revamped and improved standards for voting equipment.
“Our systems are secure, but it’s older technology, and we need to stay ahead of our adversaries by upgrading to the latest cyber technology, and that is the latest election community consensus, that is why we adopted 2.0,” Palmer explained.
Liz Howard, A former deputy commissioner of elections in Virginia explained that election security had come “light years” since her 2016 experience where oversaw the decertification process of outdated voting machines lacked a paper trail.
“We know how to secure our infrastructure and protect it from hacking, but we don’t know how to protect people from hacking, and that is absolutely one of the biggest concerns we are looking at looking ahead,” Howard said.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is a federal agency charged with maintaining critical infrastructure, including that of elections. The director of CISA’s Election Security Initiative, Geoff Hale, said the organization was doing everything it could to combat disinformation.
“Malign information certainly presents a risk,” Hale said. “There is an opportunity to educate the public in not just the high-level manner that elections are run, put into administering the election, and opportunities for transparency throughout the process.”
But the agency also works hand in hand with social media to combat “disinformation,” and these efforts could backfire as many conservatives are already skeptical of social media campaigns against so-called misinformation as there is a widespread perception that social media targets and silences conservative voices which is only confirmed when public figures like Trump are banned from social media.
“I think we’ve grown a strong working relationship with many social media platforms,” Hale said, stating that “we are in the business of giving good risk management advice to all of our stakeholders.”
The policy director for Decode Democracy, Ann Ravel, said she thought U.S. elections were “absolutely more secure” than in 2016 but the misinformation was a significant cause for concern.
“It really does have an impact for what people think is misinformation, both after the election and before the election, and so it’s definitely causing this explosion of people’s lack of confidence in the electoral process, which is a worrisome problem for our democracy,” Ravel said.
Despite the reassurance from election security officials, many were not convinced that fraudulent votes were not the issue and pointed the finger back to the officials themselves.
“Have you people looked in the mirror?” a social media user tweeted. “I remember false claims of the Russians helping Trump. That false claim led to 2-3 years of bullsh*t hearings, so STFU.”
Have you people looked in the mirror? I remember false claims of the Russians helping Trump. That false claim led to 2-3 years of bullshit hearings, so STFU
— CTU Agent Sol L 🇺🇸⚾️🇮🇱 (@kagmaga45) October 3, 2021
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