Bipartisan Panelists Highlight “Desperate Need” To Counter Election Misinformation

 lies about the 2020 election promoted by former President Donald Trump
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Photos: YouTube

Washington, D.C. (Aug. 11, 2022)— Thursday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a roundtable with state officials and election experts to examine the effects of the unprecedented rise in election lies following the 2020 presidential election. Ahead of the roundtable, the Committee released new findings from the Committee’s investigation into the dire problem of election subversion and misinformation. The Committee found that lies about elections endanger both our democratic system and the people who administer our elections.

“Let’s be clear: The election lies pushed by former President Trump and his allies have inspired truly dangerous efforts to subvert elections. These schemes are not about fairness, election security, or the truth. They make it harder for Americans to cast their ballots, but easier for dishonest officials to overturn the results of elections they don’t like,” said Chairwoman Maloney during her opening statement. “Today’s report details a set of actions that Congress and the Administration can take to begin addressing this problem. This includes establishing a coordinated federal approach to protecting our elections.”

The Committee heard from Jim Condos, Secretary of State for the State of Vermont; Lisa Marra, Director of Elections for Cochise County, Arizona, and President, Election Officials of Arizona; Tina Barton, Senior Election Expert at The Elections Group; and Nora Benavidez, Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights at Free Press.

Members and panelists discussed how lies about the 2020 election promoted by former President Donald Trump and his supporters have undermined public confidence in our elections and driven an unprecedented wave of threats against election officials.

  • In her opening statement, Ms. Barton described that shortly after the 2020 election, “I received my first death threat. It was laced with obscenities, threats to my life and my family members lives, and used sexually charged language.”
  • Under questioning from Rep. Johnson, Ms. Barton described the current level of threats as unprecedented: “In my 32 years of government … I had never had anyone threaten my life. Yes, the emotion and the threats have escalated to a degree that I have never experienced before.”

In response to a question from Rep. Sarbanes, Mr. Condos described the additional security his office required due to increased threats. He stated: “[O]ur Administration building only houses about 20 people, but we’re spending about $30,000 dollars to secure this building better. We used to have the door open to the public. It is now locked, and we have cameras. We put additional plexiglass and whatever around any windows that are on the ground floor. ... Several of my colleagues have had to go to 24/7 security, I mean it is not a good situation.”

Members and panelists examined the findings of the Committee’s investigation, which revealed that election lies are laying the groundwork to subvert legitimate election results, and that election workers desperately need help combating misinformation.

  • Under questioning from Chairwoman Maloney regarding the persistence of the “Big Lie,” Mr. Condos said: “What I’m seeing is people don’t want to hear the facts. They are ignoring the facts.”
  • Under questioning from Congresswoman Norton, Ms. Barton explained that election officials “from across the country, representatives for every state on the [Election Assistance Commission], stated that they desperately need help with communications” to combat misinformation.
  • Under questioning from Chairwoman Maloney, Ms. Benavidez explained that social media companies’ “business models, their algorithms, are actually pushing incendiary content including misleading posts that we may not otherwise engage with.” She continued, “We know that social media companies have actually facilitated, profited from, and even participated in these activities.”

Members and panelists discussed the need for a whole-of-government federal response to educate the public on the integrity of our election processes, support election officials, and combat misinformation and disinformation that may lead to the overturning of legitimate election results.

Under questioning from Rep. Raskin, Ms. Marra highlighted the importance of holding people who threatened election officials criminally liable: “We should have some penalties. We should have some things with teeth. … Criminal penalties for people who knowingly or willingly attempt to subvert the system by damaging equipment, property, the threats.