Lulu Friesdat made election integrity her life’s work for decades. Enlisting support from activists and academics, he co-founded smart choiceA nonpartisan group that opposes some voting machines, which Ms. Friesdat believes will increase wait times and cost a small fortune to buy and maintain.
But things have changed since 2020. Former President Donald J. Trump brought concerns about voting machines into the Republican mainstream by falsely claiming the 2020 election was rigged partly due to electronic voting machines.
Election integrity advocates, such as Ms. Friesdat, now find themselves in an uncomfortable position, pushing for election security, while sometimes amplifying the claims most vocally made by conspiracy theorists, including the so-called Stop the Those involved in the steel movement are also involved.
Some election activists have warned that election machines could be hacked or compromised, for example, while some conspiracy theorists say, without proof, that those hacks have already happened. Election officials say there has been no hacking.
Misinformation watchers say the somewhat overarching arguments reflect another consequence of Mr Trump’s false and exaggerated voter fraud claims, which have raised doubts about election integrity among broad swathes of the American public. Ms. Friesdat and other activists like her fear that their work may be too closely aligned to conspiracy theorists and Mr. Trump’s cause, making potential allies, such as progressives, wary of joining the fight.
“If you read an article that says these voting machines are coming, and people’s concerns about these issues are similar to the Stop the Steals movement, it makes it very difficult for Democrats to work on this issue. ,” Ms. Friesdat said. “And it has nothing to do with this. It has nothing to do with the Stop the Steal movement.
Misinformation watchers say the two movements could undermine trust in US elections even further, intentionally or not, as conspiracy theorists galvanize legitimate criticism to incite and question the entire electoral system. Let’s present by offering.
“You plant a seed of doubt, and it will grow and flourish into a conspiracy theory,” said Tim Weininger, a computer science professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies misinformation on social media. “It always starts with one untruth, and it grows into two untruths, and it grows into more, and soon you have an entire conspiracy theory on your hands.”
The debate has played out nationally as several states have faced pushback on electronic voting machines. It’s happening now in New York, where officials are considering certifying new voting machines made by Election systems and software, A manufacturer based in Omaha. the company has Mr. Trump Is Targeted in the Voting Fraud Narrative, with competitors such as Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Nevertheless, ES&S and its machines have also come under scrutiny by election activists and security experts.
Ms. Friesdat and good government groups like common cause, a nationwide watchdog focused on government accountability, has for years campaigned against the machines, saying they are expensive and can lengthen voter lines. They also caution that voters may not always consult the summary cards, which can lead to mistakes.
But they have sometimes gone further, straying into territory now dominated by conspiracy theorists. In a Facebook post, Smart Elections wrote that the machines can “add, remove, change votes on your ballot” – a claim approximately equal Created by Election Deniers 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 emphasized that ExpressVote XL can handle multiple languages simultaneously and support voters with disabilities. Although the company said each machine costs about $10,000, it said states would save money over time because they would not have to preprint traditional ballots in multiple languages and because the new equipment would eliminate redundancy.
The machine is widely expected to be certified in New York soon after a rigorous third-party safety evaluation.
ES&S has used claims of a possible hack to attack those who oppose the adoption of its machines. ES&S said the fear of its machines being hacked was “a conspiracy claim used in the aftermath of 2020.” This threatened to sue Smart Elections calls his claims about the machines “false, defamatory and defamatory”.
Smart Election responded that its views were supported by experts and otherwise protected as opinion.
The fear of hacking remains the most extreme risk highlighted by election activists, and it is one of the false explanations given by election deniers for how President Biden won in 2020. Audits and transparent processes that allow vulnerabilities to be detected and fixed before they can be exploited.
But there was no evidence that the 2020 election was affected by hacking or compromised machines, and many officials said the hacking threat should not be exaggerated.
“I liken it to being subjected to the theft of gold stored in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street,” said Douglas Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, which is ultimately responsible for the 1980s. Certification of machines.
“Theoretically, if you align all the attacking elements against multiple security protocols, it would be theoretically possible to steal gold from the Federal Reserve,” Mr. Kellner said. “But that’s not particularly realistic.”