A new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee calls for a whole-of-government plan to support state and local election officials amid an increase in election misinformation and disinformation.
The committee’s report, “‘Exhausting and Dangerous’: The Dire Problem of Election Misinformation and Disinformation,” examines the effects of the rise in election-related false information following the 2020 presidential election. This spread of false information “harms nearly every element of election administration” – posing a threat to both election workers and American democracy, the report says.
“The Committee’s investigations make clear that the greatest current threat to democratic legitimacy now comes from lies by domestic actors who seek to convince Americans that their election systems are fraudulent, corrupt, or insecure,” the report says.
“For the past two years, election misinformation in the United States has often followed a feedback loop that produces more false information, heightens threats and pressures on election administrators, and increases the possibility of election subversion,” it continues.
The spread of mis- and disinformation has placed pressure on state election administrators, making it more difficult for them to do their jobs. The surge of threats and disinformation – especially concerns about voting by mail – was “distracting us to the point where we can’t get our real work done,” the president of the Election Officials of Arizona reported to the committee.
In response to these findings, the committee is recommending a whole-of-government plan to support state and local election officials.
The committee called on President Biden to designate a Federal agency or office to support state and local efforts to counter election misinformation. Additionally, the committee recommended Congress pass legislation to address the funding gap for election jurisdictions across the country, as well as ensure appropriate penalties for those who threaten election officials and administrators.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy,” House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “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.”