Cover: The 2024 U.S. Election, Trust, and Technology

The 2024 U.S. Election, Trust, and Technology

Preparing for a Perfect Storm of Threats to Democracy

Published Apr 9, 2024

by Marek N. Posard, Todd C. Helmus, Michelle Woods, Bilva Chandra

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Foreign governments interfered in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, while some domestic leaders alleged election fraud before voting even began. Assertions that the election was “stolen” gained so much traction that, as certification began, a crowd rallied and attacked the U.S. Capitol, causing damage, injury, and death. Messages discrediting the election results and the agencies and officials investigating the riot and election-related offenses have continued unabated, particularly on social media.

These events further eroded trust in U.S. elections. As the 2024 U.S. presidential election approaches, these familiar messages could resurface, and new sources of falsehoods could emerge to challenge election credibility.

Authors of a new paper identified key risks and potential threats, focusing on vulnerabilities associated with three types of assets required for fair, democratic elections: physical (e.g., voting machines), human (e.g., election officials), and reputational (e.g., public confidence in elections). The authors suggest that a perfect storm could arise in which seemingly unrelated threats target these assets simultaneously, explore how recent advances in generative artificial intelligence could accelerate the storm's effects, and discuss next steps in preparing for these threats to the 2024 presidential election.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and conducted in the Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.