“They are definitely outdated,” said Isabella Garcia-Camargo, an organizer of the Election Integrity Partnership, a new coalition of disinformation researchers.
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Since September 8, she said, her group has investigated 182 cases of election-related misinformation, most of which started locally. When mail was found in a ditch in Greenville, Wisconsin, for example, some conservative media falsely claimed Democrats were rejecting mail-in ballots. In Germantown, Md., A video of an election official darkening an oval on a ballot was falsely used as evidence that voters’ preferences were being altered, Garcia-Camargo said.
Last week, the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an information exchange partnership, warned election officials about a series of suspicious emails that impersonated representatives of state or included links to websites asking them to verify their password information.
The emails, reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, did not appear to be part of a coordinated campaign, said Jason Forget, a spokesperson for the group. But it was a sign that local officials should “remain vigilant to identify and report suspicious activity to protect the vote,” he said.
Senior state officials overseeing the elections said they were also constantly communicating with local authorities about the wave of lies. In Colorado, Secretary of State Jena Griswold said her office held a call with local officials and county clerks this month after the disclosure that Iran was behind the threatening emails intended to influence American voters.
Ms Griswold said she wanted to make sure officials were equipped in case they encountered similar messages and reminded them of best practices in online security.
“It’s just a tough year for everyone in our office,” she said.
The experience of Deva Marie Proto, the registrar of voters for Sonoma County, California, has been typical of local election officials. Some mornings, she gets up at 5 to answer voters’ questions on Facebook. She then goes to the Santa Rosa County offices to cheer up the 15 full-time staff, as well as a handful of temporary election workers, who are responding to calls from people about rumors and conspiracies.