The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: AI’s Impact on the 2024 Presidential Election

May 14, 2024

The 2024 presidential election has the potential to be one of the most consequential in generations. With significant political ideologies across the country, candidates, campaigns, and election officials are recently turning more to artificial intelligence to share their messages, reach more voters, and administer a secure election. However, these same tools could also be used for misinformation and cultivation of distrust in the electoral process. Given the stakes, this election is likely to shape the direction of the country for decades to come – and AI is set to play a major role. 

The Risks and Challenges of Using AI in Elections 

The rapid rise of AI and the lack of cohesive regulations has brought significant moral and technical challenges for society. The potential for AI to have negative impacts is perhaps most consequential in government and elections, where the “Wild West” of AI is stoking public fears and threatening election integrity in several ways: 

  • Disinformation and Deepfakes: AI’s ability to create deepfakes and spread disinformation, especially through social media platforms, can create false narratives, impersonate candidates, and manipulate public opinion. Recently, a robocall to New Hampshire voters in January – which used a deepfake audio recording allegedly from Joe Biden – urged voters not to vote in the Democratic primaries. To many experts, the proliferation of disinformation and deepfakes poses the most serious threat to election integrity and voter trust. 

  • Election Interference: AI can be used by both domestic and foreign actors to target the integrity of election systems like registration databases and voting machines, as well as exploit human psychology to sway voters and outcomes. In the 2016 presidential election, international hackers used AI to breach the Democratic National Committee’s network, leak sensitive information, and spread distrust in the system.  

  • Algorithmic Bias: A major concern with AI is the potential for algorithmic bias or discrimination, which can result in systems that may inadvertently disenfranchise certain groups of voters and favor certain candidates or parties. 

  • Privacy Concerns: With AI managing large amounts of sensitive data, such as voter registration records and political preferences, these databases are common targets for attacks. The risk of data breaches and misuse – like the Cambridge Analytica scandal that harvested personal information on 87 million Facebook users against their consent for political advertising – can expose voters to identity theft, fraud, or harassment.  

The Opportunities and Benefits of Using AI in Elections 

Despite these challenges and risks, AI may also have a significant positive impact on the 2024 presidential election. It offers exciting opportunities to reach and inform more voters, strengthen election integrity, and make the entire voting process more efficient. Here are a few ways AI could play a positive role in upcoming elections: 

  • Targeted Messaging: AI can help campaigns create messages that target audiences more precisely by collecting and analyzing massive amounts of voter demographic and behavioral data. AI can be used to segment audiences and tailor messages that appeal to voters’ individual values and interests, helping campaigns reach more voters, especially those who are undecided or in swing states.  

  • Instant Responses: AI can be used to generate immediate responses to videos, speeches, and breaking news, which can keep voters informed. It can also help campaigns analyze the content and sentiment of their opponents’ statements so they can more efficiently offer effective counter-messages.  

  • Election Administration: AI can streamline and automate certain election tasks, such as verifying voter eligibility, scanning and counting ballots, and detecting and resolving errors. Some states have already begun using AI to verify mail-in ballot signatures, providing the potential for a more efficient and secure verification process. 

Using AI to Ensure Election Integrity 

AI’s potential impact on the election process requires careful consideration and safeguards to ensure the integrity of democratic processes. Here are a few strategies being proposed or already implemented that aim to protect the quality and legitimacy of the upcoming presidential election: 

  • Legislation and Regulation: The proposed For the People Act aims to expand voting access, reduce the influence of money in politics, strengthen ethics rules, and protect election systems from interference. It also includes provisions to modernize and secure voter registration, mandate paper ballots and audits, and establish a national commission to protect U.S. democratic institutions. 

  • Cybersecurity Initiatives: To prevent and respond to cyberattacks on election infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security designated election systems as critical infrastructure and established the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to assist election officials with cybersecurity resources and best practices.  

  • Transparency and Accountability: Recently, a coalition of tech companies, civil organizations, and researchers developed guidelines for the responsible use of AI in elections, such as disclosing the sources of AI-generated content, ensuring the accuracy and quality of data, and enabling independent audits and oversight. 

  • Public Education: Some campaigns have been launched to inform and empower voters about AI’s role in elections. These include online quizzes about spotting AI-generated content, tools to detect and combat misinformation, and digital hubs of trusted election resources. 

  • International Cooperation: The U.S. and the European Union have established a joint working group on election security to exchange best practices, share threat information, and coordinate responses. The United Nations has also adopted resolutions and reports to address the challenges and opportunities of AI for peace and security, and to promote international norms and standards for the ethical and human rights-based use of AI. 

The Future AI Use in Free and Fair Elections 

While AI has the potential to transform and optimize the electoral process, it also requires careful and responsible use, as well as ongoing adaptation to new technological challenges. The same tools used to reach and educate voters can be used to spread information and manipulate voter behavior. AI will certainly have a significant role in the 2024 presidential election and beyond, but ensuring that its uses are truthful, ethical, and respectful of voters’ privacy and best interests. 

Pursuing AI Education and Careers

Capitol Technology University offers programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Science that put you at the forefront of ethical AI use and management of AI technology. Our AI Center of Excellence (AICE) is dedicated to advancing the frontiers of artificial intelligence through innovative research, education, and industry collaboration, and is open to new Capitol Tech members to join. 

For more information, contact our Admissions team or attend a Virtual Open House session