“Our voters are angry and confused. They simply don’t know what to believe,” Lisa Marra, elections director in Cochise County, Arizona, told a US House committee in 2022 as reported by PBS Newshour. “We’ve got to repair this damage.” But recovering from the broad sweep of mis- and disinformation isn’t easy.

Oregon officials in 2022 put money into the national #TrustedInfo2022 campaign. Despite this and other efforts, misinformation continued to be a major problem for them. According to PBS Newshour, Ben Morris, spokesperson for the Oregon secretary of state’s office, cited three recent Facebook posts that Meta allowed to remain on Facebook despite his office providing evidence to them that they were false. One alleged a candidate’s name had been improperly censored from election fliers. Another falsely asserted that one party was purposefully denied access to a local elections office.

These kinds of untruths are forcing officials worldwide to take time away from elections and related duties to address voters’ concerns on a one-by-one basis. Officials are also investing in additional technology and staff, even at a time when attrition among election officials is at an all-time high. The challenge is extraordinary.

All of this has just become routine maintenance – but what happens if a large-scale crisis occurs? To help election officials prepare for a fake news-driven crisis, Smartmatic has just released the second edition of its popular “Safeguarding Elections in the Age of Fake News” handbook.

The handbook is a guide to help election officials prepare their organization ahead of a crisis occurring. It gives practical, actionable advice for structuring a team and preparing them, as well as steps for managing through a crisis. It also includes post-crisis follow up and lessons learned steps.

Here’s one small excerpt:

“Don’t negate. Displace.” FactCheck.org co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson says that simple refutation or debunking of false information isn’t as effective as displacing inaccurate materials with correct ones. “It is more effective to have knowledge in place before people are exposed to deception than to debunk after they’ve been exposed and accepted it.”

You may already have plans in place to deal with false information. Oregon did, but they’re still struggling with fake news. The second edition Fake News Handbook is free for election officials to download. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Click this link or the image below to download it now.

Source: “Debunking false claims a difficult battle for election offices nationwide” PBS Newshour, Sep 11, 2022

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