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Emerging Technology, AI, and Elections

Election Administration

What can election officials do now in the midst of the 2024 election season about threats from AI and other emerging technologies? That is a central question in addressing the use and misuse of artificial intelligence and its associated tools. While AI can be a helpful tool, there have already been incidents where it has been used to mislead or confuse voters. 

EAC Chairman Ben Hovland interviewed Ginny Badanes from Microsoft’s Democracy Forward program on AI’s impact on the election landscape and tools for election officials. The Democracy Forward initiative works to support democracies around the world through cyber-protection, civic engagement, and other methods by utilizing lessons learned from cyber-threats, influence operations, and AI use in U.S. and international elections. There are ongoing and developing efforts to try to lessen the impact of AI misuse and weaponization.  

Key takeaways from this discussion for election officials: 

  • Make sure your office has a plan, including for content review and public communications, if a candidate or other officials are deep-faked to spread disinformation about election administration. 
  • Test that plan by adding AI related scenarios to tabletop exercises or similar trainings for election officials and relevant staff.  
  • Build relationships with the public and other stakeholders as a trusted source for elections ahead of time. 
  • Be aware of the tactics of foreign adversaries to spread harmful or divisive information about U.S. elections.  
  • Follow basic cybersecurity measures, such as multi-factor authentication for data and applications. 

“While we look at the challenges of AI and deepfakes, it’s a matter of considering the challenges but not overhyping the threats,” Ginny Badanes said. It is important to bring awareness to and prepare for the issues that AI brings, but there should not be over-catastrophizing in what might possibly happen leading up to November.  

This discussion highlighted the importance of technology companies, government agencies, and public entities working together on these issues for comprehensive measures and solutions. 

View the EAC’s AI resources for election officials and Contingency Planning and Continuity of Operations resources