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Misinformation in MT Impacting November Election

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Thursday, August 20, 2020   

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Misinformation is a top concern for election officials, especially as the pandemic transforms the election.

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock is allowing counties to conduct mail-in voting, and Gallatin County decided this week to do just that.

But Casey Hayes, election manager for the Gallatin County Election Department, said residents have been flooded with misinformation from mail-in ballots' susceptibility to fraud, to pets registered to vote.

He said folks should look to officials for accurate information.

"If they do not know for certain what it is that they're speaking on, they should direct people to us, and we can give them accurate information that also provides nuance," Hayes said.

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has joined other secretaries of state across the country in a campaign to promote election officials as trusted sources of information with "#TrustedInfo2020."

Hayes said he regularly dispels misinformation that's spreading online.

The News Literacy Project has developed steps for avoiding misinformation in the 2020 election.

Peter Adams, the Project's senior vice president for education, said disinformation campaigns targeting certain voters use out-of-context quotes or videos and manipulated photos to exploit people's deeply held views and values.

"Our religious faith, our patriotism, our care and concern for our community, our desire for justice - and weaponize those in a way that is intended to make us have a strong emotional reaction to a false claim," Adams said.

Adams added people should be on the lookout for false claims on their social-media feeds. He says private social-media groups have become laboratories for misinformation.

"If they have someone in their life who's sharing a lot of these kinds of problematic pieces to maybe have a conversation with them or speak up and challenge them or help fact-check some of these things because they're being shared in a private setting that researchers and fact-checkers can't always access," Adams urged.

Hayes said he'll continue to let people in on the election process in order to build trust.

"I'm trying to take the wizard out from behind the curtain to show them the process is transparent and there is accountability after every election," Hayes said.

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Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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