Democrats and Republicans in Hamilton County are warning voters about election interference after the FBI announced an attempt from Iran and Russia to disrupt the upcoming presidential election.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said both countries obtained voter registration information and then used that data to direct misinformation toward voters.
According to officials, Iran sent voters in swing states emails that looked like they were from the white supremacist militia group known as the “Proud Boys.” In part, the emails said “we will come after you” for not voting for Donald Trump.
Local officials said this plot to intimidate voters online should remind everyone to read election-related emails with skepticism and report anything suspicious.
“Those messages were trying to convince Democrats not to vote,” said Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper. “In many ways, for me, it's a motivator. We are bigger and better than what they expect, and let's act like it. They're preying on people reacting. Don't react. Have your plan to vote; stick to that.”
Alex Triantafilou, the chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said the best way to defeat voter intimidation is to be an educated voter.
“How do they cut through what's legit and what's not?" Triantafilou said. “You can rely on political parties by going to their websites. You can rely on the candidates and their positions on their websites.”
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tweeted a video Wednesday saying the Russian and Iranian misinformation campaigns did not impact Ohio, but Ohio voters should still be vigilant.
“If you see something that you believe is disinformation, report it to us. You can email concerns to the Secretary of State at firstname.lastname@example.org,” LaRose said. “Make your voice heard. Be a voter. That's what they don't want you to do."
LaRose said Ohio has led the nation in being proactive about protecting the cybersecurity of its elections administration. A spokesperson declined WCPO’s request to elaborate.
The FBI offered the following recommendations to voters:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, such as state and local election officials; verify who produced the content; and consider their intent.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about problems in voting or election results, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- For information about final election results, rely on state and local government election officials.
- Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
- If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.