Oversight Committee Report Reveals How Election Lies Endanger Election Workers and American Democracy
Washington, D.C. (Aug. 11, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released a staff report entitled “Exhausting and Dangerous”: The Dire Problem of Election Misinformation and Disinformation.” The new findings come ahead of the Committee’s roundtable at 2:15 p.m. ET with a bipartisan panel of state and local officials and election experts to examine the effects of the unprecedented rise in election lies following the 2020 presidential election.
Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement after releasing the report:
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. My Committee’s investigation shows that bad actors are undermining faith in our democracy by spreading lies about elections for their own partisan and financial gain. Today’s report reveals the disturbing and even violent impact of election lies on real people—including the workers we rely on to administer our elections safely and fairly.
“The Committee’s report leaves no doubt that a whole-of-government approach is needed to support state and local officials as they work to provide accurate information to the public. As Chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, I am committed to finding robust solutions to this existential threat to our democracy.”
The Oversight Committee has been investigating the harm of election misinformation since early 2021. This work has included a hearing examining a sham election audit in Arizona in April 2021 led by the private company Cyber Ninjas, and an investigation into EchoMail, Inc.’s participation in another so-called election audit and canvass of voters in Otero County, New Mexico.
On April 21, 2022, the Committee, along with the House Administration Committee, sent letters to election officials in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Ohio, requesting information about the effects of misinformation on their ability to administer elections and how federal agencies can assist local officials in combatting lies about election processes and results.
Below are key findings from the Committee’s report:
- Disinformation campaigns carried out by malicious domestic actors are eroding trust in our democracy and disrupting the operation of election offices.
- The President of the Florida Supervisors of Elections informed the Committee that election offices across the state have “been consumed with responding to numerous public records requests, debunking election myths, and increasing voter education efforts to strengthen voter confidence in the elections process.”
- The President of the Election Officials of Arizona stated that lies about election integrity led to people “distracting us to the point where we can’t get our real work done.” As each new false allegation of voter fraud is released, “the angry phone calls and threats start anew.”
- Election administrators have attempted to counter lies about election practices, but lack sufficient resources and funding to protect the public’s trust in our elections.
- Officials in all four states have taken steps—from creating public websites, to improving voter outreach, to offering tours of their offices—to try to restore public faith the election process.
- The President of the Florida Supervisors of Elections expressed a need for additional investments in voter education that are beyond the budgetary capacity of the Florida Supervisors of Elections.
- The President of the Election Officials of Arizona asked for a permanent, dedicated stream of federal Help America Vote Act grant funds for the improvement and maintenance of voting equipment, in addition to improvements in the federal voting system certification process.
- Misinformation led to violent death threats against local election officials, often inspired by statements by right-wing politicians and activists, leading many experienced officials to leave their positions.
- According to the President of the Texas Association of Election Administrators, “personal attacks on national media outlets” led to alarming threats against an election administrator, including a social media call to “hang him when convicted for fraud and let his lifeless body hang in public until maggots drip out of his mouth” and messages threatening his children, stating, “I think we should end your bloodline.”
- In Florida, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Mike Lindell spread conspiracy theories about one election official for responding to false allegations of fraud. Mr. Jones and Mr. Stone called out that election supervisor by name, publicized his phone number, and encouraged listeners to tell the supervisor “that they are watching him, that he is a piece of crap, and that these are their elections.” The elections office was inundated with phone calls from voters across the country.
- As the President of the Election Officials of Arizona explained: “The fact so many of us are leaving the field should concern every person across the country. … These jobs are complicated and difficult enough during normal times, but what employee, in any industry, wants to come to work every day to be villainized in the news, online, stalked, or threatened by angry members of the public?”
- Election officials expressed concerns about dangerous, misinformation-driven, so-called “election integrity” laws that threaten to undermine the voting process in future elections.
- The President of the Election Officials of Arizona reported local officials “have spent hundreds of hours combating legislation that would be harmful to voters, impossible to enact, or at a huge cost to county taxpayers since counties are responsible for the cost of conducting elections.”
- The President of the Florida Supervisors of Election noted that the passage of new election laws “has magnified the belief” in disinformation about elections. “[T]he new election laws require substantial voter education efforts by local Supervisors of Elections, and costly changes to their educational publications, election worker training materials, videos, manuals, etc., to incorporate the new requirements.”
- The President of the Texas Association of Election Administrators reported that public testimony during state legislative debates over election law changes “frequently included broad generalizations of alleged fraud during the conduct of the elections and by mail ballot, purported violations of the Election Code, interference with poll watchers, and repeated misleading information about actions taken by the Harris County clerk responsible for the November 2020 election.”
The report makes several recommendations in response to these findings, including executive actions and legislative reforms to ensure a strong, coordinated federal response, to provide adequate resources to states, and to ensure appropriate penalties for those who threaten election officials and administrators.
Click here to read today’s Committee staff report.