Bipartisan panelists highlight ‘desperate need’ to counter election misinformation

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Pictures: YouTube

Washington, DC (August 11, 2022) – On Thursday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the Oversight and Reform Commission, hosted a roundtable with state officials and election experts to examine the effects of the unprecedented increase in election lies following the 2020 presidential election. Ahead of the roundtable, the Committee released new findings from the Committee’s investigation into the serious problem of electoral subversion and disinformation. The Committee found that lies about elections endanger both our democratic system and the people who administer our elections.

“Let’s be clear: The election lies pushed by former President Trump and his allies inspired truly dangerous efforts to overturn the election. These schemes are not about fairness, election security or truth. They make it harder for Americans to vote, but easier for dishonest officials to overturn election results they don’t like.” said President Maloney in her opening address. “Today’s report details a set of actions Congress and the administration can take to begin to address this issue. This includes establishing a coordinated federal approach to protecting our elections.

The Committee heard from Jim Condos, Secretary of State for the State of Vermont; Lisa Marra, Chief Electoral Officer for Cochise County, Arizona, and Chair of Arizona Elections Officials; Tina Barton, Senior Elections Expert at The Elections Group; and Nora Benavidez, senior attorney and director of digital justice and civil rights at Free Press.

Members and panelists discussed how the lies about the 2020 election promoted by former President Donald Trump and his supporters undermined public confidence in our elections and prompted an unprecedented wave of threats against election officials. .

  • In her opening statement, Ms Barton described that shortly after the 2020 election, “I received my first death threat. It was mixed with obscenities, threats against my life and the lives of my family members, and used language with a sexual connotation.
  • Questioned by Rep. Johnson, Ms. Barton described the current level of threats as unprecedented: “In my 32 years in government… I have never seen anyone threaten my life. Yes, the emotion and the threats escalated to a degree I had never experienced before.

In response to a question from the Sarbanes representative, Mr. Condos described the additional security his office needed due to increased threats. He stated: “[O]Our administration building only houses about 20 people, but we are spending about $30,000 to better secure this building. Before, we had the door open to the public. It is now locked and we have cameras. We put additional plexiglass and all around the windows that are on the ground floor. … Several of my colleagues had to go to security 24/7, I mean it’s not a good situation.”

Members and panelists reviewed the findings of the Committee’s investigation, which revealed that election lies are setting the stage to overturn legitimate election results and that election workers desperately need help in combating misinformation.

  • Asked by President Maloney about the persistence of the “big lie,” Mr. Condos said: “What I see is that people don’t want to hear the facts. They ignore the facts. »
  • Questioned by MP Norton, Ms Barton explained that election officials “from across the country, representatives from every state in the [Election Assistance Commission]said they desperately needed help with communications” to fight misinformation.
  • Questioned by President Maloney, Ms Benavidez explained that social media companies “The business models, their algorithms, actually push inflammatory content, including misleading posts that we couldn’t otherwise engage with.” She continued, “We know that social media companies have actually facilitated, profited from, and even participated in these activities.”

Members and panelists discussed the need for a whole-of-government federal response to educate the public about the integrity of our electoral processes, support election officials, and combat misinformation and disinformation that can lead to invalidated results. legitimate voters.

Questioned by Rep. Raskin, Ms. Marra stressed the importance of holding criminally responsible those who threatened election officials: “We should have penalties. We should have things with teeth. … Criminal penalties for people who knowingly or willfully attempt to subvert the system by damaging equipment, property, threats.

Asked by Congresswoman Norton what steps the federal government can take to combat misinformation, Ms. Barton explained that the American people “It takes respected leaders, like all those who are elected, who can be powerful voices, influential voices, to speak the truth, to direct voters to reliable sources of information … and direct them directly to where the truth.”

Mr. Sarbanes questioned two Republican witnesses about the important role public servants play in combating partisan misinformation. Ms Barton said that as an elected Republican she felt “Moral obligation to speak up and defend the election I oversaw in 2020 even though it was an election I lost and lost on this ballot.” Ms Marra said, “It’s really important that high-profile political leaders set the tone in determining voter confidence levels.”