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Members of Issue One’s Faces of Democracy testify before Congress about challenges facing U.S. elections

Media Contact

Cory Combs

Director of Media Relations

In today’s Senate Rules Committee hearing, state and local election officials from both parties testified about a wide range of challenges facing the election administration community, from generative AI and social media disinformation to threats against officials and the need for increased funding. Hearing witnesses included two members of Issue One’s Faces of Democracy campaign: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Executive Director of the Charleston County, SC Board Of Voter Registration And Elections Isaac Cramer.

“As the chief elections officer of a battleground state, I am acutely aware that the biggest threat to election security today is misinformation and disinformation designed to confuse voters and obfuscate the voting process,” said Sec. Benson during her opening testimony. “And as we enter the first election cycle where Artificial Intelligence will be used to amplify and expand exponentially these tactics and their impact, the time is now to enact needed federal protections.”

Sec. Benson also spoke about the importance of protecting the people who administer our elections. “The Senate should consider how to enact greater protections to deter doxing, intimidation, and mass harassment of those who administer our elections. Election officials sign up to do these jobs because we love our communities and love our democracy. We are professionals. We are nonpartisan. We are deeply committed to and passionate about our work. We put voters first, and we are firmly committed to maintaining citizens’ rightly placed faith in our elections and ensuring peaceful transitions of power in our country. Ensuring our security is critical to ensuring election security.”

Last month, nearly two dozen current and former election officials from Issue One’s Faces of Democracy campaign, including Sec. Benson and Mr. Cramer, called on Congress to protect election workers from mounting threats nationwide by passing anti-doxxing measures in advance of the 2024 election.

In his testimony, Mr. Cramer highlighted the need for increased federal funding to bolster our country’s critical election infrastructure: “The demand for increased funding is reinforced by the expanding role of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While AI brings efficiency gains, it also presents challenges for election officials. In Charleston County, we employ various methods to monitor social media, phone calls, and other communication channels to ensure voters receive reliable election information and safeguard our teams. The potential for malicious actors to exploit AI underscores the need to equip election officials with the essential resources and tools for effective preparation… Election administrators need the support of Congress now more than ever to protect and fund our elections.”

“Today we saw that election workers, who aren’t just public servants but also our neighbors and friends, continue to exhibit remarkable bravery and steadfastness in the face of continued physical and cybersecurity threats,” said Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), former member of Congress and co-chair of Issue One’s bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity. “Lawmakers have a responsibility to both prevent attacks on election workers and protect workers by providing adequate federal funding for election officials. Cybersecurity is a pernicious threat to our elections emanating from China and Russia. Protecting our election workers and preventing cyberattacks are national security issues which maintain the heartbeat of our democracy.”

Dustin Czarny, an elections commissioner in Onondaga County, New York, submitted written testimony in advance of the hearing underscoring the “sophisticated and continuously validated processes” that help keep our elections safe and secure, while calling on congressional leaders to invest in the country’s critical election infrastructure now and over the long-term in order to meet evolving needs and combat election disinformation. “Providing substantial and consistent funding from the federal government is the best way to ensure equal opportunity to the ballot box for all citizens,” Czarny wrote.

Additionally, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) drew attention to a recent Department of Education clarification permitting Federal Work Study (FWS) funds to be used to hire college students to work in election offices. The announcement, which will help understaffed election offices recruit a new generation of civically engaged young Americans, followed an Issue One report published last year which made the case that FWS funds could be used for this purpose.

Learn more about Issue One’s efforts to keep U.S. elections free, fair, and secure.