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Why You Need to Vote on Election Day 2022

An image of "Election 2022" and American flag buttons.
Deniers of the 2020 election results are running for state office on Republican tickets across the country.
Getty

What's happening

Key statewide and congressional races are on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Why it matters

Democracy advocates say it's especially important that people vote this year because candidates who continue to push the "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen are running on Republican tickets for top state offices.

What's next

If elected, those candidates could push through laws that infringe on voting rights under the guise of improving election security, say voting rights advocates. Many such candidates have campaigned on promises to do exactly that. They could also refuse to certify future election results they don't agree with.

There's no shortage of people -- both in the US and abroad -- who are actively trying to subvert Tuesday's US elections. While it might be tempting to stay home, voting rights advocates say it's absolutely critical that people vote because the very future of American democracy could be on the line.

Despite worries about foreign interference dating back to before the 2016 presidential race, security experts say American elections are more secure than they ever have been. But that hasn't stopped proponents of the "Big Lie" from pushing baseless claims that the 2020 presidential race was stolen through some kind of fictitious voter fraud. In the two years since, none of those allegations has been proven true.

Citizen Now
CNET

It's those false claims and the people pushing them that experts say conspire to keep some Americans from voting this year, while also dragging the election process down through frivolous and lengthy court battles. 

Meanwhile, about 35 election deniers are running on Republican tickets in key statewide races in more than half the country, according to the nonpartisan group States United. If elected, they could affect how elections are run and votes are counted in future contests, including the 2024 presidential race.

"This is where we need to be on our utmost guard and ultimately answer the question that we should all be asking ourselves: "Do we believe in this experiment of American democracy?" Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said during an online conversation co-hosted by 92NY and Aspen Digital and posted online Thursday. 

"And if so, then we actually have to to be able to participate in it. We have to fight for it. We have to get out there." 

Domestic threats 

This year, the greater threat, experts say, comes not from abroad, but from Americans at home. Over the past couple of years, proponents of the "Big Lie" -- people who continue to back former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through some kind of election fraud -- have also pledged to take down the system by whatever means necessary.

Election officials say armies of 2020 deniers have descended on their offices, demanding to inspect election equipment, taking pictures and video to document alleged "anomalies" that could be used in court challenges down the road.

Those threats have many election officials worried both about the sanctity of the elections they oversee and the possibility of drawn-out court battles. It's also raised the specter of potential violence against elections officials, poll workers and voters themselves.

In Arizona, a group of people, many of them armed, masked and wearing ballistic vests, have been watching outdoor ballot boxes. Voting rights activists asked a judge to bar them from the boxes, saying that their activities amounted to voter intimidation. The judge responded by limiting the group's activities in the vicinity of ballot boxes, barring them from doing things like taking photos or videos of voters, openly carrying firearms, posting information about voters online, or spreading falsehoods about election laws.

Illustration of a ballot and a ballot box labeled "vote"
Eakkasit Nimprasert/Getty

While some people have clearly abused the process, local officials across the country have made significant efforts to boost transparency at the local level, giving outside observers close-up looks at how the process works both ahead of and during elections.

That transparency, along with the ability of regular people to get involved in the election process in constructive ways, is critical to combating the disinformation and outright lies being spouted by those that seek to destroy it, said Matt Masterson, CISA's former top election security official. 

"The best response to this doubt, distrust and dissent, this push to undermine our democracy, is robust participation from Americans from across the political spectrum," Masterson, who now serves as director of information integrity at Microsoft, said during a recent panel discussion organized by the Aspen Institute.

Yes, our elections are secure

Krebs, who as CISA's director had spearheaded a campaign to combat election-related disinformation, back in 2020 called that year's presidential election "the most secure" in American history

Krebs' declaration, made in the days following the election and overwhelmingly backed up by election security experts, countered the lies continuously tweeted by then-President Trump, falsely claiming that the election was rigged through voting systems, stoking the flames of misinformation and disinformation that months later would be followed by the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol by some of Trump's followers.

Two years later, Krebs says the system remains secure. While nation-states like Russia, China and Iran have long tried to undermine US elections through cyberespionage and cyberattacks, their interest and ability in doing that hasn't changed much in the past two years, Krebs told CNET in a September interview.

This year, cybersecurity researchers have spotted social media disinformation campaigns that they believe are the work of Russia and China, but note that they've failed to gain much traction.

In particular, Russia's efforts appear to have been sapped by the ongoing war that it launched in Ukraine, according to Recorded Future. Meanwhile, a campaign involving faked Twitter accounts and altered news articles that Mandiant researchers say is likely the work of a group acting in the political interests of China has gotten little exposure on social media.

Speaking at Mandiant's recent mWise conference in Washington, DC, current CISA Director Jen Easterly noted that election security has come a long way since 2017, when elections were first designated as critical infrastructure. That change opened the door to greater federal funding and involvement.

"Americans should go to the ballot box with confidence that there's been an incredible amount of work done to secure our election infrastructure," Easterly said. There are hundreds of thousands of people within the government and private sector who work to make sure that elections continue to be secure and resilient, Easterly added. 

What impact could the election deniers have?

Then there are the election deniers. This is where things get a little scary and why experts say it's so important to vote this year.

What could have the biggest effect on the future of democracy this year are the contests for statewide offices. 

Voters in most of the country will be electing new governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general. And deniers of the 2020 election results are running for at least one of those offices in each of 27 states, according to States United's research. 

Many of those candidates have vowed to enact policies that would curtail voting rights for some people under the guise of improving election security. These kinds of laws have already been passed in several states, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which also notes that they disproportionately affect people of color.

Additionally, in three states -- Alabama, Arizona and Michigan -- election deniers are running for all three of those state offices. If they win, voting rights advocates say, state officials working in tandem could refuse to certify an election's results if they merely disagree with the outcome.

The blame for the success of election-denier movement and its state-office candidates rests squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, Krebs says.

"There's been an entire systematic failure of political leadership throughout the Republican Party," Krebs said during Thursday's online event. "That's my belief. They had an opportunity early on to cut this thing out, but it was just too beneficial."

Krebs says the movement was just too good for Republican fundraising and, eventually, it also became about the party maintaining its credibility.

"Along the way, we just continued to push the bar up, up, up and that's gotten us where we are now," he said, referring to the election-denier candidates running for statewide offices. 

GOP officials didn't immediately return an email seeking comment that was sent through the Republican National Committee website.

At the federal level, more election deniers in Congress could potentially negate future election results too. On the same day that Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, a total of 147 Republicans in the House and Senate combined voted to overturn the presidential election results, despite no evidence of fraud.

While some of these candidates are running in heavily Democratic areas and face long odds, the majority of them are expected to win, according to an analysis done by The Washington Post. Of the 299 on the ballot for House, Senate and key statewide races, 174 are running for safely Republican seats, the Post found. Another 51 are running in tightly contested races.

Meanwhile, state election officials are bracing themselves for a potential slew of court fights after the results are announced. High-profile promoters of the "Big Lie," such as former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who worked to overturn the 2020 election, are already building challenges to potential Republican losses.

Not only could that drag out the elections, it could put the results in jeopardy, Tammy Patrick, senior adviser for elections at the nonpartisan Democracy Fund, said at the same Aspen Institute event that Microsoft's Masterson spoke. She notes that the courts themselves haven't been immune to problems in recent months.

"I think there'll be a lot of appeals, and if things end up with the Supreme Court, I'm not sure if there's anyone who is very confident in what that outcome might actually be," she said.