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Election Officials Are Role-Playing AI Threats To Keep Them From Undermining Democracy

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By Lauren Feiner – 

It’s the morning of Election Day in Arizona, and a message has just come in from the secretary of state’s office telling you that a new court order requires polling locations to stay open until 9PM. As a county election official, you find the time extension strange, but the familiar voice on the phone feels reassuring — you’ve talked to this official before.

Just hours later, you receive an email telling you that the message was fake. In fact, polls must now close immediately, even though it’s only the early afternoon. The email tells you to submit your election results as soon as possible — strange since the law requires you to wait an hour after polls close or until all results from the day have been tabulated to submit.

This is the sort of whiplash and confusion election officials expect to face in 2024. The upcoming presidential election is taking place under heightened public scrutiny, as a dwindling public workforce navigates an onslaught of deceptive (and sometimes AI-generated) communications, as well as physical and digital threats.

Faith Based Events

The confusion played out in an Arizona conference room in early May as part of an exercise for journalists who were invited to play election officials for the day. The subject matter — AI threats in elections — was novel, but the invitation itself was unusual. The entire event was unusual. Why is the Arizona secretary of state reaching out to journalists months in advance of the election?

During the 2020 election, Arizona swung blue, tipping the election to Joe Biden. Fox News forecast the win well ahead of other news outlets, angering the Trump campaign. Trump and his supporters pointed to  and later filed (then dropped) a suit against the state demanding that ballots be reviewed. Later, Republicans commissioned an audit of the votes, which ultimately upheld the accuracy of the original tabulation. And only last Friday, Rudy Giuliani was served with an indictment in which he is charged with pressuring Arizona officials to change the outcome of the 2020 election in favor of Trump.

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This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.

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