News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
How Russia used disinformation on social media to target voters

Disinformation: Remain calm and do not spread

With eight days to go until the most important election of our lifetimes, voters are being bombarded with half-truths and outright lies that may confuse the public and suppress the vote. Once again, foreign actors are seeking to disrupt our elections. The FBI recently alleged that Iran hacked into U.S. voter registration data and sent threatening, spoofed emails to voters. There is plenty of domestic misinformation and voter suppression, too — from falsehoods on the president's Twitter account to online campaigns targeting Black and Latino voters. In New Hampshire, the state Republican Party is spreading disinformation about college students' voting rights.

As tempting as it may be to retweet and rave about disinformation, that can be counterproductive. By publicly calling out false claims, we risk elevating the disinformation — and unintentionally spreading it. Instead, here are four concrete steps that the public, election officials, social media platforms and the media can take to combat disinformation.

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New Hampshire students don't lose their voting rights because of the pandemic

College students are frequent targets of disinformation campaigns — especially in New Hampshire. The latest attempt to suppress the state's student vote came from the New Hampshire Republican Party, which requested that the state attorney general instruct local officials that college students attending a New Hampshire school remotely should not be allowed to vote there.

The GOP's request flies in the face of state law and was roundly rejected by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, a Republican. A student who is enrolled in a New Hampshire college is eligible to vote in New Hampshire if they are 18 or older and have established "domicile" in New Hampshire, as MacDonald's office confirmed Oct. 21.

The term domicile might sound like confusing legal jargon. But in New Hampshire, it simply means a place considered home for social and civic purposes. So even though many college students are currently learning remotely due to Covid-19, they likely can still vote absentee in the Granite State.

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Michigan bans open carry of firearms in polling places on Election Day

Four ways to combat voter intimidation without unintended consequences

There's growing concern across the United States that some overzealous partisans may stake out polling locations to intimidate voters. On live national television, President Trump infamously asked the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," a reference some white supremacists took as a call to action. The president's son Donald Trump Jr. has taken to social media to call for an "army for Trump" election-security operation, which would show up in person at polling places to "help us watch" the opposition. Last week, news broke that. Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, had been the target of a kidnapping plot among energized militia members.

Intimidating voters is a federal crime, and law enforcement officials around the country are on high alert. While vigilance to ensure that every eligible voter can vote safely is necessary, a visible police presence at the polls would be a serious mistake because it can have the unintended consequence of being intimidating in its own right and suppressing lawful voting.

Here's a better approach:

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