Disinformation and the safety of election officials must be addressed, ABA House says
The House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a measure combating election misinformation and disinformation and protecting the personal security of election administrators and voters at the ABA Annual Meeting on Monday.
Resolution 602 adopts the revised ABA Election Administration Guidelines and Commentary and urges all election officials to ensure the integrity of the voting process through the adoption, use and enforcement of these guidelines. It also encourages governmental entities to provide election authorities with the funding they need to implement the guidelines.
The Standing Committee on Election Law revisited the guidelines “in light of ongoing trends in voting and voter registration, advancements in technology, the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent 2020 presidential election and upcoming 2022 midterm election cycle,” according to the resolution’s report. The standing committee established the guidelines in 1989 and made other changes to them in 2001 and 2021.
“Elections as usual seem a thing of the past,” said Michael Drumke, a member of the Board of Governors and liaison to the Standing Committee on Election Law, who introduced the resolution. “Rather, some disturbing behaviors and actions seem to be the new normal.”
“Interestingly, these threats are somewhat intertwined,” he added. “Threats and harassment of election officials seem to go hand-in-hand with misinformation and disinformation in the voting process.”
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The Pew Charitable Trusts reported in September 2021 that election officials across the country are concerned about how to combat disinformation about election fraud and security, and that more work is needed to support the electoral process, the report says.
A new section in the election administration guidelines acknowledges that misinformation and disinformation have impacted the process. It recommends that voters be educated about these efforts and election administrators be proactive in responding to misinformation and disinformation involving voting.
The Brennan Center for Justice’s March survey of local election workers, which is also cited in the resolution’s report, found that 77% feel threats against election officials have increased and one in six has personally experienced threats.
Drumke added that because of these experiences, there now exists a corollary concern that the recruitment of election workers will be more difficult in upcoming election cycles.
To address this issue, the Standing Committee on Election Law added a new section on personal security to its guidelines. It outlines the need for public education on election officials’ significant role in preserving and safeguarding the democratic process.
The standing committee will share the revised guidelines with secretaries of state and other election officials as well as with the U.S. Congress for reference when considering legislation involving federal elections. It will also ask the ABA to use the guidelines in its advocacy efforts.
Resolution 602 is co-sponsored by the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and Section of State and Local Government Law.
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