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Arizona election official tests artificial intelligence ahead of 2024 election

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Arizona News Connection) The Grand Canyon State's top election official is testing open-access artificial-intelligence tools in preparation for a potential wave of disinformation during next year's election

Arizona's Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes recently held a first-of-its-kind simulation in which he presented participants with AI-generated audio and video of officials, including himself, spreading falsehoods

Fontes said the exercise is intended to increase readiness and resilience in the battleground state.

"So that we can have a live exercise where election officials can, in real time, react to scenarios that get thrown at them," said Fontes. "So it is really about training, training, training, preparation, preparation."

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Fontes said mis-, dis- and mal-information remain a primary threat to the security of elections - with advances in AI and "deepfake" technology heightening the potential for chaos. 

A recent University of Chicago-NORC/Harris/AP poll found a bipartisan majority of adults are worried about the spread of falsehoods during the 2024 election.

Fontes argued that he'd like to see election administrators across the country have access to a centralized space where they can look to get the most updated and current election-related information. 

He said he also would like election officials to participate in continuing-education initiatives, such as those many other professionals have to partake in to be able to continue in their positions.

"Just like attorneys - I'm an attorney - do with continuing legal education," said Fontes, "our election officials can have this reference space where they can go, learn more, figure more out and then continue to up their own game."

Fontes called elections "critical infrastructure" that should be conceptualized like roads, bridges, dams, and water systems - all crucial for communities to thrive. 

He argued that elections need to be better cared for and funded at the state and federal level.

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