With less than four days until the midterm elections, poll workers are warning of an increase in voter misinformation, and even intimidation. Most of the cases reported have come from swing states.
In Florida, election deniers told voters to wait to return their mail-in ballots until election day. Conservatives have pushed this strategy following the 2020 presidential election, where a "blue wave" of mail-in ballots from Democrats shattered the false assumptions that Donald Trump was ahead.
Experts say that this strategy will not accomplish what it intends, but will only lead to further delays tallying votes. Furthermore, Florida forbids the return of mail-in ballots to election sites.
Alan Hays, election supervisor in Lake County, Florida, told The New York Times that disinformation online has been catastrophic.
“One of the things that is almost laughable: Some people call and say, ‘Is it true you don’t count the absentee ballots except in close elections?’ Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
Because of the rampant misinformation in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner warned that anyone engaging in voter intimidation would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Your authoritarian, un-American, anti-democratic conduct on Election Day — if it is illegal, we will put you in jail,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “Bad things will happen in Philly to extremists who come here to try to erase votes.”
Philadelphia is one of the most diverse cities in a battleground state, and was the target of voter intimidation tactics during the 2020 race.
Omar Sabir, vice chair of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, added that all ballot drop boxes are under 24 hour video surveillance. The PCC manages elections and voter registration, and reports that over 161,000 mail-in ballots have already been returned.
“Rest assured, Philadelphians, it will be safe for you to vote, the same as it’s always been,” Sabir said. “Philadelphia is the birthplace of democracy, and I’ll be damned if democracy dies here in Philadelphia on my watch.”
Election workers in Maricopa County, Arizona were the target of violent threats during the 2020 elections. When their area proved to be a pivotal county in the presidential race, right-wing extremists showed up to polling places in crowds and attempted to stop ballot counting.
Maricopa was so scrutinized that they underwent an audit one year later, which provided no evidence of voter fraud, despite the claims of Trump and other conservative pundits.
For the 2022 elections, an Arizona judge has banned carrying weapons or photographing voters at polling sites. However, there have been several reports from across the county of conservative groups staking out drop boxes and intimidating voters.
With intimidation and disinformation across the country, Alan Hays of Florida believes it will have adverse effects on democracy.
"Really, misinformation is just a long word for lie," he said. "And I think it’s playing a significant role, because people don’t know who to believe.”
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