Misinformation researchers have been preparing for the 2022 midterm elections since 2020.
Tuesday’s vote is “the day we have been approaching with an ever-shifting mix of excitement, fear, hope and trepidation — just like the slow, creaky incline of a roller coaster about to drop,” elections experts with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, wrote in a bulletin on Tuesday.
The Brennan Center, a nonprofit voter rights organization, published a myth-busting primer outlining facts about the superior accuracy of vote-counting machines over hand counting, and the numerous security measures in place to protect against voting fraud.
The Election Integrity Partnership, which includes experts at the Stanford Internet Observatory and the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington, predicted the midterms would bring “old wine in new bottles”: false and misleading narratives that echo rumors and lies from 2020. The difference, they wrote in a blog post, is that “a far larger percentage of a distrustful public now assumes malice, and expects fraud.”
But “elections are human operations, and humans make mistakes,” including “small hiccups” that are a natural part of the voting process rather than a sign of widespread problems, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. American elections are geographically decentralized, which makes them “highly resilient to coordinated, comprehensive threats or attacks,” researchers said.
Researchers said they would continue to monitor misleading narratives in multiple languages well after Tuesday. Conspiracy theories could roll out gradually as votes are tabulated, “with each forming a brick in a larger narrative,” according to the Election Integrity Partnership.
Experts urged voters to be wary of images and anecdotes shared about individual incidents at the polls, warning that such reports could be exaggerated or taken out of context. And they encouraged people to not amplify rumors without confirmation from authoritative sources, such as local election officials.
They also pushed for patience with election results, noting that although some races can be called on election night, voting officials always need more time to process ballots, check for errors and finalize the count.