April 24, 2024

For decades, Lulu Friesdat has made electoral integrity her life’s work.With support from activists and academics, she co-founded smart electiona nonpartisan group that opposes certain voting machines that Ms. Friesdat argues increase wait times and cost a fortune to buy and maintain.

But starting in 2020, things have changed. Concerns about voting machines quickly entered the Republican mainstream after former President Donald J. Trump falsely claimed that the 2020 election was rigged, in part, by rigged electronic voting machines.

Election integrity advocates like Ms. Friesdat now find themselves in the awkward position of pushing for election security while sometimes exaggerating the most outspoken claims of conspiracy theorists, including those involved in the so-called stop-theft movement.

For example, some election activists have warned that election machines could be hacked or compromised, while some conspiracy theorists have said, without evidence, that such hacks have occurred. Election officials say no hacking occurred.

The misinformation watchdog said the somewhat overlapping arguments illustrate another consequence of Mr Trump’s false and exaggerated voter fraud allegations, which have cast doubt on the integrity of the election among the broader American public. Ms. Frista and other activists like her worry that their work could become too closely tied to conspiracy theorists and Mr. Trump’s cause, making potential allies such as progressives reluctant to join the fight. Be cautious.

“If you read an article that says these voting machines are coming in, and people’s concerns about these issues are very similar to those of the Stop Theft movement, it’s going to be very difficult for the Democrats to work on that,” Ms. Frista said. . “It’s not about that. It’s not about the stop-theft movement.”

The misinformation watchdog said the two campaigns may, intentionally or not, further erode trust in U.S. elections, as conspiracy theorists tend to exaggerate legitimate criticism to anger supporters and call into question the entire electoral system.

“You plant a seed of doubt, and it grows and festers into a conspiracy theory,” said Tim Weninger, a computer science professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies misinformation on social media. “It always starts with one lie and then develops into two lies and then more, and before long you’ve got a whole bunch of conspiracy theories at your fingertips.”

The debate has unfolded across the country as several states face resistance to electronic voting machines.Now that’s happening in New York, officials are considering election systems and software, A manufacturer based in owned Targeted by Mr Trump’s vote-fraud narrative, as well as competitors such as Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. However, ES&S and its machines have also come under scrutiny from election activists and security experts.

Ms. Friesdat and good governance groups such as common cause, a national watchdog focused on government accountability, has opposed the machines for years, saying they are costly and could lengthen voter lines. They also warn that voters may not always refer to summary cards, allowing mistakes to be missed.

But they have sometimes gone further, lingering in territory now dominated by conspiracy theorists. In a Facebook post, Smart Elections wrote that the machines can “add, delete and change ballots on ballots” — a claim that’s nearly identical to what deniers have been saying after the 2020 election.

ES&S wrote in an emailed statement that its machines were secure and voters managed to complete their ballots quickly. It highlights that ExpressVote XL can handle multiple languages ​​simultaneously and supports voters with disabilities. While the company says the machines cost about $10,000 each on average, it added that states will save money over time because they don’t have to preprint traditional ballots in multiple languages ​​and that the new equipment will eliminate redundant ballots. Remain.

The machine is widely expected to be certified in New York soon after undergoing a rigorous third-party safety assessment.

ES&S used the statement about potential hacking to attack those who opposed the adoption of its machines. ES&S said fears that its machines could be hacked were “a conspiracy theory assertion used after 2020”.it threatened to sue Smart Elections, calling its claims about the machines “false, defamatory and derogatory”.

Smart Elections responded that its views were supported by experts and protected as opinions.

The fear of hacking remains the most extreme risk highlighted by election activists and one of the misinterpretations by election deniers of how President Joe Biden could win in 2020. Election security experts say election officials must behave as if hacking is possible, resulting in audits and transparent processes that allow vulnerabilities to be detected and fixed before they are exploited.

But there is no evidence that the 2020 election was affected by hacking or compromised machines, and many officials say the hacking threat should not be exaggerated.

“I liken it to saying gold stored in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street could be stolen,” said Douglas Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections Authentication Machine.

“Theoretically, if you combine all the attack elements with numerous security protocols, it is theoretically possible to steal gold from the Federal Reserve,” Mr Kellner said. “But it’s not particularly realistic.”

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