These Activists Distrust Voting Machines. Just Don’t Call Them Election Deniers.

For decades, Lulu Friesdat has made electoral integrity her life’s work.With support from activists and academics, she co-founded smart electionsMr. Friezdat, is a bipartisan group that opposes some voting machines, which they believe result in longer wait times and a small cost to purchase and maintain.

But since 2020, things have changed. Former President Donald J. Trump has catapulted concerns about voting machines into the mainstream Republican Party by falsely claiming that the 2020 election was rigged, in part because of electronic voting machines.

Election fairness advocates such as Mr. Frizdat are now seeking election security while amplifying the most vocal claims of conspiracy theorists, including those involved in the so-called “Stop the Steel” movement. I feel like I’m in an uncomfortable position to make a point.

For example, some campaigners warn that election machines could be hacked or compromised, while some conspiracy theorists claim hacks have already taken place without evidence. There is also Election officials say no hacking took place.

Misinformation watchdogs say the somewhat overlapping arguments point to another outcome of Trump’s false and exaggerated voter fraud allegations that have raised doubts about the integrity of the election among the broader American public. Says. Friesdat and activists like her are wary of their work being too closely tied to conspiracy theorists and Trump’s cause, and potential allies such as progressives to join the fight. I am afraid that it will become

“When you read articles saying that these voting machines are being introduced and that people’s concerns about these issues are very similar to those of the Stop the Steel movement, it is very difficult for Democrats to address this issue. will be,” she said. Friezdat said. “And it has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with the Stop the Steel movement.”

Both moves, whether intentional or not, further undermine confidence in U.S. elections, as conspiracy theorists tend to exaggerate legitimate criticisms to infuriate supporters and call into question the electoral system as a whole. Misinformation watchdogs say it’s possible.

“If you sow the seeds of suspicion, it will grow into a conspiracy theory,” said Tim Wenninger, a professor of computer science at the University of Notre Dame who studies misinformation on social media. . “It’s always he started with one falsehood, then it grew to two falsehoods, it grew to many more falsehoods, and eventually he got the full conspiracy theory.”

The debate unfolded nationwide as several states faced backlash against electronic voting machines. It’s happening now in New York, too, and officials are election systems and software, Manufacturer based in Omaha. The company Targeted in Trump voter fraud story, alongside competitors such as Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. But ES&S and its machines are also under intense scrutiny from campaigners and security experts.

Like Mr. Freezdat and the Good Government Corps common causeA national watchdog focused on government accountability has campaigned against machines for years, saying they are expensive and can lengthen voter lines. It also warns that voters don’t always refer to summary cards, and mistakes can leak out.

But sometimes they go further and stray into territory now dominated by conspiracy theorists. In one Facebook post, Smart Elections wrote that the machine can “add, remove, and change votes on ballots.” This is much the same claim made by election naysayers after the 2020 election.

In an emailed statement, ES&S said its machines were secure and voters were able to complete their ballots quickly. He emphasized that ExpressVote XL can handle multiple languages ​​simultaneously and support voters with disabilities. The company said the machines cost an average of about $10,000 per unit, but states will no longer have to pre-print traditional ballots in multiple languages, and the new equipment will eliminate redundancies. He added that this will save costs over time.

The machine is widely expected to be certified soon in New York after undergoing rigorous third-party security evaluations.

ES&S used claims about hackability to attack those who opposed the introduction of their machines. ES&S said the concern that its machines could be hacked was a “conspiratorial allegation used in the aftermath of 2020.”that threatened to sue Smart Elections calls the claims about the machine “false, defamatory and disrespectful.”

Smart Election responded that its views are supported by experts and otherwise protected as opinions.

The fear of hacking remains the most extreme risk highlighted by campaigners and one of the fallacies offered by election deniers for how President Biden won in 2020. Election security experts say election administrators must act as if they can be hacked, with audits and transparent processes to detect and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. increase.

However, there is no evidence that the 2020 election was affected by hacking or compromised machines, and many officials said the threat of hacking should not be overstated.

“This is like saying that gold that is kept in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street can be stolen,” said the New York State Election Commission co-founder, who is ultimately responsible. Chairman Douglas Kellner said. Authenticate your machine.

“Theoretically, it would be possible to steal money from the Federal Reserve by coordinating all attack elements against a multitude of security protocols,” he said. “But it’s not very realistic.”

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