US election tensions raise fears of renewed misinformation
Far from drying up, the disinformation tide surrounding the US midterm elections is likely to continue to swell as the wait for the final results of some very close duels continues. It will likely take several days or even weeks to see some results. Observers fear that the delay could trigger a spate of protests and unfounded allegations of voter fraud. Far-right Republican candidates, who, like former President Donald Trump, say the 2020 election was stolen from him, didn’t wait for the results. Some have denounced problems with voting machines, which many observers say is intended to discredit the results when they are released.
Indeed, when Americans wake up on Wednesday, there will still be some battles at stake, but some candidates will have unexpectedly lost by then. “Activists will turn their attention to the strongest (scam) rumors (…), try to amplify them and turn them into bigger stories,” says the non-partisan research group Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) in a report.
The focus of attention: certain states where candidates are neck and neck and could tip the Senate one side or the other, like Georgia, Nevada or Arizona. In “close elections, especially when it comes to party control in the US Senate, disinformation will intensify,” said Rick Hasen, professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, with AFP Angeles (UCLA) School of Law. “It is now common among Trump supporters to believe that voter theft is common in the United States, despite all reliable evidence to the contrary,” he warned.
threat of violence
Those differences could pave the way for long periods of uncertainty as more than half of Republican candidates in this midterm election repeat allegations of cheating made by Donald Trump in 2020. “If the candidates do not back down or decide to contest the election, this period will be extended, with each passing day” new allegations, the EIP report predicted. Experts also warn that the “observers”, supporters mobilized by Donald Trump to detect voter fraud without any basis to claim that legal brakes prevented them from detecting such irregularities.
This could fuel the possibility of a violent confrontation, while such calls from electoral conspiracy theorists are not unknown. The SITE intelligence group, which monitors online extremists, says ultranationalists have encouraged “armed and violent interventions” at census centers in Georgia.
“flow” of misinformation
According to the Center for American Progress, a think tank, disinformation tends “not only to persist, but to change and worsen in the post-election environment.” Those who contest election results “can loudly raise baseless legal challenges. Partisan election officials can refuse to confirm strong election results,” the think-tank said in a report. And Donald Trump “could declare his intention to run for the 2024 presidential election (…) to give him increased media attention, alongside his constant flow of disinformation,” it continues.
Republican officials, including Donald Trump, had already begun raising doubts about the integrity of the midterm election Tuesday after reports of technical problems with voting machines in Arizona. “Here we go again? People won’t support it!!!” Donald Trump denounced on his social network Truth. Blake Masters, a former President-backed Arizona Senate candidate, also tweeted that it’s “difficult to know if what we’re seeing is incompetence or something worse.”
About 20% of polling stations in Maricopa County, Arizona, encountered difficulties Tuesday, local officials said, saying it would not affect voting. There, in 2020, the counting of the result between Donald Trump and the winner Joe Biden was very close, which concentrated a large part of the allegations of election fraud.
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