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Integrity Of Democratic Process A Focus In Little Rock

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The integrity of the voting process both on a national and local scale is a concern for many during this election. On Tuesday the Clinton School of Public Service held a virtual public program with two election security experts.

According to the bipartisan group Alliance for Securing Democracy, one of the primary goals of Russia, China and Iran is to create uncertainty about the election results. One of the organization's co-directors, Zack Cooper, served on the National Security Council under George W. Bush. Cooper says those authoritarian regimes may not be coordinating their attacks, but they have some common goals.

"Sometimes, yes, it is trying to favor one candidate over another. But other times it's just trying to create confusion and sow doubt about the results, and thereby undermine democracy in general," Cooper says.

Hacking emails or networks and spreading conspiracy theories through social media channels are among the tactics used to create doubt. Cooper says practicing civil conversation both online and in person is a defense that can be used by everyone.

"For all of us, just daily, thinking through how do I want to have this debate on a contentious issue—is there a way to do it where you're talking more about the ideas and less about the people behind it—these are ways that make it more difficult for foreign interference to be effective."

The Alliance's Director, Laura Rosenberger is also a veteran of the National Security Council and former advisor for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. She says volunteering as a poll worker and supporting local election offices are two ways to bolster democracy.

"Keep calm. I know that sounds probably pollyannish," Rosenberger says, "but I think it's one of the most important things that the American people can do right now. Know that things are going to look really messy. American democracy has always been kind of messy. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to fix things, but what we don't want to do is allow our own fear and angst to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The Alliance for Securing Democracy recommends the site Rumor Control, run by the federal government's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, as a tool for identifying conspiracy theories and other misinformation.

Locally, the Little Rock Police Department is addressing concerns about domestic threats by increasing patrols near polling sites. Casey Clark, spokesman for the LRPD, says there have been no reported issues since early voting began, but the department wants to be prepared.

"A lot of civil unrest and different things that have happened during the past year. And some of the volatility with all the different viewpoints going on. We don't have any direct threats, but we could see where voting could be a contentious issue, so we try to plan ahead."

There are around 50 polling sites in Arkansas's capitol city, which have seen a record number of early voters. Clark says more officers will be stationed near the polls on Election Day. Concerns about voter intimidation have risen due in part to comments made by President Trump. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic Party of Arkansas have hotlines for reporting concerns or irregularities at the polls.

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