Election officials are preparing for a myriad of threats and new scenarios in November. Security concerns are top of mind after the harassment of election workers following the 2020 election, making the partnership between election officials and law enforcement officers, and efforts like the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections, a critical part of preparation. Addressing potential insider threats, such as volunteer poll workers with a political agenda, is also part of the scenario planning, requiring new processes and procedures. Election officials in the battleground states of Arizona and Pennsylvania reported a surge in malicious emails that included malware and attempted password theft ahead of their August primaries, possibly indicating similar attempts around the general election. And an inundation of information requests pertaining to the 2020 election is taking election officials’ attention away from election prep during a critical time.

These specific threats come against a backdrop of falling trust in the election process and an increase in efforts to interfere in the administration of elections. This week a new poll found a “sizeable minority” of Democrats (26 percent) and Republicans (39 percent) say they are likely to blame election fraud if their party does not win control of Congress, indicating that the strategy of claiming election fraud when you or your favored party loses is outlasting the 2020 presidential campaign.

Welcome to Monitoring the Midterms, a special newsletter from the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund that provides analysis at the nexus of US politics and autocratic threats to democracy. Reach out with questions, reactions, or suggestions.

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New from ASD at GMF

ASD at GMF and the Brennan Center for Justice added Rumble to the social media accounts on the Midterm Monitor. True to its reputation, Rumble is almost exclusively used by conservative candidates and media: Of the 34 monitored candidates with channels on Rumble, 31 are affiliated with Republicans and three are affiliated with independent or third-party conservative candidates. And of the 29 monitored media outlets or pundits with channels on the platform, 27 would be classified as right-leaning or far-right. (The outliers are Reuters and Newsy.)

Anti-Ukraine rhetoric get traction among some candidates. Nine of the ten most retweeted tweets mentioning Ukraine between July 1 and October 11 were posted by isolationist voices in the Republican Party and opposed supporting Ukraine’s war effort. This week’s Midterm Monitor report reviews candidate data on the topics of Ukraine and foreign interference, and it dives into the battleground state of Georgia.

ASD at GMF will hold midterm-focused events in Arizona and Georgia next week.

  • Atlanta – Monday, October 17: Senior Fellow Bret Schafer will walk through the anatomy of a disinformation campaign at an event co-hosted by ASD at GMF, the Carter Center, and the World Affairs Council in Atlanta. RSVP here
  • Phoenix – Tuesday, October 18: Director Laura Thornton will discuss how and why foreign adversaries are impacting US elections at the national and local levels at this event co-hosted by ASD at GMF, the McCain Institute, and the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations. Register here!

State Spotlight: Georgia

ASD at GMF takeaways from the battleground state of Georgia.

  • Coffee County Voting Equipment Breach barely covered by conservative outlets. The investigation into the alleged breach of voting equipment in Coffee County, Georgia was the subject of at least 40 tweets from local news outlets and 20 tweets from traditional, national news outlets, but it received little mention from conservative outlets and pundits—including those most active in covering election administration and election security concerns. Read more in this week’s Midterm Monitor report.
  • Robust, post-election audits can rebuild election confidence. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine talked with Joseph Kirk, election supervisor for Bartow County, Georgia, after the state’s May 24th primary for Ballots and Bagels. In response to mis- and disinformation about election results and waning trust in the system, Kirk offered rigorous post-election audits as one potential solution. “Audits can counter these [false] narratives,” Kirk explains. “It is a simple low-tech solution to make sure these [election] systems are secure.”

Resources You Should Have

Election Line created a resource guide for state and local election officials between now and the midterm elections, which includes ASD at GMF’s Election Official’s Handbook, Midterm Monitor, and new report on vetting poll workers.

States United and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue compiled the policies related to election and voting disinformation of some of the most used social media platforms in Social Media Policies: Mis/Disinformation, Threats, and Harassment.

A Big Idea

“There have been times when election officials had to take on wearing a cybersecurity hat, they had to wear the public health hat, they’ve had to wear the election law hat. In each of those instances, they had to acquire a certain amount of knowledge.”

  • David Levine on election officials’ adaptability in the Washington Post

Check out all of ASD at GMF’s work on the US midterms here.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.