Vote Early and Often

12368087481?profile=RESIZE_400x“Vote early and often.”  In his book Capone, author John Kobler attributes the phrase to the gangster Al Capone.  In the United States, Republicans accused their opponents of inviting such corruption with their support of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the "Motor Voter Law."


Jen Easterly, Director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), stated in an interview on 19 January 2024 that "the American people should have confidence in the election process" in 2024 and beyond, despite concerns over AI capabilities.  "I enjoyed talking with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC yesterday about the intersection of elections and AI, and importantly, why the American people should have confidence in our elections processes due to the tireless efforts of state and local elections officials of both parties, charged with the responsibility to administer, manage, and secure our election infrastructure.  These officials ran secure elections in 2018, 2020, and 2022, with no evidence that malicious actors changed, altered, or deleted any votes that impacted the outcome of those elections.  Concerning the 2020 Presidential election in particular, all states where the outcome was close had paper ballots, which allowed recounts and audits to verify election results.  That election's outcome was repeatedly validated, including in multiple court challenges."

Easterly weighed in on the threat AI poses to election security following a recent column in Foreign Affairs Magazine (gated content) that she co-authored with Scott Schwab, Secretary of State of Kansas and the state's Chief Election Official, and Cait Conley, Senior Election Security Adviser at CISA at the US Department of Homeland Security.  From the Foreign Affairs article: "Although the technology won't introduce fundamentally new risks in the 2024 election, bad actors have used cyber threats and disinformation for years to try to undermine the American electoral process it will intensify existing risks.  Generative AI in the hands of adversaries could threaten each part of the electoral process, including the registration of voters, the casting of votes, and the reporting of results.  Largely, responsibility for meeting this threat will fall to the country's state and local election officials.  For nearly 250 years, these officials have protected the electoral process from foreign adversaries, wars, natural disasters, pandemics, and disruptive technologies."

"Election officials have defended election infrastructure from cyber threats, from physical threats, from threats of foreign influence and disinformation, and have done it in a way where there is security and integrity in the elections process," said Easterly.  "I have confidence. And Andrea, the American people should have confidence in the election process.  Since I took this job in 2021, I've had the privilege of spending time with state and local elections nationwide, serving on the front lines of our democracy, and seeing firsthand how hard they work to ensure the security and resilience of our election processes.  But as the article in Foreign Affairs on 'AI's Threat to Democracy' notes, these officials need support, mainly because of the intense pressure they have faced since the 2020 election and the baseless allegations of voter fraud that followed it.

Suppose anyone is unsure about the security of our election infrastructure. In that case, I urge you to serve as a poll worker or as an election observer and witness firsthand the multiple layers of technological, physical, and procedural controls put in place to ensure that votes are counted as cast.  Moreover, if you have any questions about elections, please talk to your state or local election officials; they are the true subject matter experts in this area.  'TrustedInfo2024' on the website of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is a great reference.

Finally, if you read the recently declassified Intelligence Community report on the 2022 midterm elections, you saw that the aggregate scope and scale of foreign activity targeting the 2022 midterms exceeded what was detected in 2018, with a diverse and growing group of foreign actors engaging in operations to interfere with our elections, including Russia, China, and Iran.  We cannot allow foreign adversaries to sow partisan discord and undermine confidence in our election processes.  Elections are the golden thread that runs through the fabric of our democracy; it is up to all of us to keep that fabric strong."

"The involvement of more foreign actors probably reflects shifting geopolitical risk calculus, perceptions that election influence activity has been normalized, [and] the low cost but potentially high reward of such activities.  So, although these threats are not new, today's generative AI capabilities will make these activities cheaper and more effective.  Specifically, AI-enabled translation services, account creation tools, and data aggregation will allow bad actors to automate their processes and target individuals and organizations more precisely and at scale."

Election security will be a topic on several SecureWorld conference agendas in 2024, including at SecureWorld Charlotte on 10 April 2024.  Torry Crass, State Chief Risk Officer for the State of North Carolina, said the keynote panel will address the question, "How is AI going to be used responsibly?"  The state's chief privacy officer is building out the framework for how the state and the elections division handle AI.

The biggest worry about AI is that it could be used to generate fake images, audio, and video to create disinformation and misinformation to harm competing candidates.  "It can be hard for voters to know what to trust or not," Crass said.

All of the technology used to protect the voting process cannot solve the age-old election strategies of allowing nonregistered voters to vote, miss-counting of ballots, and ballot box stuffing.


This article is presented at no charge for educational and informational purposes only.

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