Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Elections workers must wake up to the risks posed by AI

Road sign that says "AI Ahead"
Bill Oxford/Getty Images

Sikora is a research assistant with the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy. Gorman is the alliance’s senior fellow and head of the technology and geopolitics team; Levine is the senior elections integrity fellow.

Days before New Hampshire’s presidential primary, up to 25,000 Granite State voters received a mysterious call from “President Joe Biden.” He urged Democrats not to vote in the primary because it “only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump.” But Biden never said this. The recording was a digital fabrication generated by artificial intelligence.

This robocall incident is the highest-profile example of how AI could be weaponized to both disrupt and undermine this year’s presidential election, but it is merely a glimpse of the challenges election officials will confront. Election workers must be well-equipped to counter AI threats to ensure the integrity of this year’s election — and our organization, the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, published a handbook to help them understand and defend against threats supercharged by AI.


Generative AI tools allow users to clone audio of anyone’s voice (saying nearly anything), produce photo-realistic images of anybody (doing nearly anything), and automate human-like writing without spelling errors or grammatical mistakes (in nearly any language). The widespread accessibility of these tools offers malign actors at home and abroad a new, low-cost weapon to launch sophisticated phishing attacks targeting election workers or to flood social media platforms with false or manipulated information that looks real. These tactics do not even need to be successful to sow discord; the mere perception that an attack occurred could cause widespread damage to Americans’ trust in the election.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

These advancements come at a time when trust in U.S. elections is already alarmingly low. Less than half of Americans express substantial confidence that the votes in the 2024 presidential election will be counted accurately, with particular distrust among GOP voters. On top of that, election workers continue to face harassment, high-turnover, and onerous working environments often stemming from lies about election subterfuge. In an age of AI-driven manipulated information, the ability to readily fabricate images, audio and video to support election denialist narratives risks lending credence to — or at least creating further confusion around — such claims and inspiring real-world action that undermines elections.

What should election workers do to prepare for these threats? First, election officials need to incorporate AI risks into their election training and planning. Given election hazards old and new that AI can enable, it is necessary that election workers know the basics of what they are up against, can communicate to voters about AI challenges and are well-resourced to educate themselves further on these threats. To this end, election offices should consider forming a cybersecurity working group with AI expertise, adding AI-specific education to election worker training, and drafting talking points on AI. Likewise, simulating AI threats in mock elections or tabletop exercises could be invaluable in helping election officials plan responses to such threats.

Second, with hackers increasingly exploiting AI tools for cyberattacks, election officials have to double down on cybersecurity. Basic cybersecurity hygiene practices — such as enforcing user multi-factor authentication or using strong passwords like passphrases — can help protect against the vast majority of attacks. Unfortunately, however, many election jurisdictions are still well behind in implementing these simple protocols. Moreover, in the runup to the 2020 election, the FBI identified numerous fake election websites imitating federal and state elections sources using .com or .org domains. With generative AI increasingly able to produce realistic fake images and even web pages, .gov web addresses will become clear identifiers of authenticity and trust.

Finally, election officials should consider leveraging the responsible use of AI and other new technologies in their offices. Just as AI offers malign actors tools to undermine elections, the technology offers election officials instruments to ease operational burdens or even help them better defend our elections. Election offices can turn to generative AI to help with time-consuming tasks like drafting emails to prospective poll workers or populating spreadsheets with assignments. But before election workers rush to embrace AI technology, jurisdictions must create guidelines for their use, such as requiring robust human oversight. Likewise, election offices could consider piloting content provenance technologies that companies like OpenAI, Meta, and Google are already adopting; these technologies can help voters discern whether content from election offices is authentic.

This year’s presidential race will no doubt be a pivotal election. The proliferation of accessible AI technology will both magnify and ease malign actors’ abilities to push false election narratives and breach electoral systems. It is vital that the United States fortify its elections against threats that AI exacerbates. This starts with ensuring that election workers on the frontlines of democracy are equipped to meet these challenges.

Read More

Computer image of a person speaking
ArtemisDiana/Getty Images

Overcoming AI voice cloning attacks on election integrity

Levine is an election integrity and management consultant who works to ensure that eligible voters can vote, free and fair elections are perceived as legitimate, and election processes are properly administered and secured.

Imagine it’s Election Day. You’re getting ready to go vote when you receive a call from a public official telling you to vote at an early voting location rather than your Election Day polling site. So, you go there only to discover it’s closed. Turns out that the call wasn’t from the public official but from a replica created by voice cloning technology.

That might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but many New Hampshire voters experienced something like it two days before the 2024 presidential primary. They received robocalls featuring a deepfake simulating the voice of President Joe Biden that discouraged them from participating in the primary.

Keep ReadingShow less
Robotic hand holding a ballot
Alfieri/Getty Images

What happens when voters cede their ballots to AI agents?

Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. Starting this summer, he will serve as a Tarbell fellow.

With the supposed goal of diversifying the electorate and achieving more representative results, State Y introduces “VoteGPT.” This artificial intelligence agent studies your social media profiles, your tax returns and your streaming accounts to develop a “CivicU.” This artificial clone would use that information to serve as your democratic proxy.

Keep ReadingShow less
Sen. Ron Johnson in front of a chart

Sen. Ron Johnson claims President Biden has allowed 1,700 terrorists to enter the country. That total refers to encounters (people who were stopped)

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Has President Joe Biden ‘let in’ nearly 1,700 people with links to terrorism?

This fact brief was originally published by Wisconsin Watch. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Has President Joe Biden ‘let in’ nearly 1,700 people with links to terrorism?

No.

Border agents have encountered individuals on the federal terrorist watchlist nearly 1,700 times since President Joe Biden took office — that means those people were stopped while trying to enter the U.S.

Keep ReadingShow less
Social media app icons
hapabapa/Getty Images

Urban planning can counter social media’s impact on young people

Dr. Jones is a grassroot urban planner, architectural designer, and public policy advocate. She was recently a public voice fellow through The OpEd Project.

Despite the breathtaking beauty of our world, many young people remain oblivious to it, ensnared by the all-consuming grip of social media. A recent Yale Medicine report revealed the rising negative impact social media has on teens, as this digital entrapment rewires their brains and leads to alarming mental and physical health struggles. Tragically, they are deprived of authentic life experiences, having grown up in a reality where speculation overshadows genuine interactions.

For the sake of our society’s future, we must urgently curb social media’s dominance and promote real-world exploration through urban planning that ensures accessible, enriching environments for all economic levels to safeguard the mental and physical health of the young.

Keep ReadingShow less
podcast mic in the middle of a red and blue America
Topdesigner/Getty Images

Fellowship brings Gen Z voices into democracy and podcasting

Spinelle is the founder of The Democracy Group podcast network and the communications lead for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State.

According to Edison Research, nearly half of Gen Z are monthly podcast listeners. But their voices are largely absent from podcasts about democracy, civic engagement and civil discourse. The Democracy Group’s podcast fellowship, which recently completed its third cohort, aims to change that.

Keep ReadingShow less