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Recent advancements in the automation community have placed artificial intelligence (AI) technology in a position to change our culture and society forever, which, most assuredly, includes our elections. The high stakes and polarization surrounding and encompassing the 2024 election are unprecedented, even without the plausible effect artificial intelligence may have. 

With the rise of AI, the 2024 election process faces many new challenges, the likes of which voters have never dealt with before. 


What is AI?

If you’re already familiar with AI, skip to the next section.

Artificial intelligence is generally defined as a machine’s ability to perform cognitive functions usually associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning, perceiving, and learning. AI can only base its outputs upon the data humans have given it. Unlike humans, AI has the ability to remember every aspect of the data it has accumulated, as well as access and use it seamlessly. 

AI is closely related to machine learning, which is the ability for a machine to learn things without specifically being programmed to do so. The major difference between machine learning and AI is the fact that AI does not just learn, but can reason, infer, and essentially mimic human cognitive ability. AI as we know it today is due in large part to advancements within a subset of machine learning called deep learning. Deep learning, simply put, is a type of machine learning that utilizes artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain, allowing for multiple layers of processing and the ability to recognize complex patterns in pictures, text, sounds, and other data, then producing accurate insights and predictions. 

AI, due to these unprecedented advancements, has been thrust into the public eye, along with access to many new AI technologies such as Chat-GPT, Dall-E, MidJourney, and countless others. These technologies are here, growing and learning to be more capable and powerful by the minute. At the same time, many people are learning and growing in their knowledge of these technologies and how to utilize them in a practical sense.  

The issue is not whether AI will affect the election, but how and to what extent. It will likely be widely used, due to its ultra-low cost and ability to produce whatever is requested nearly immediately. Content or research that may have taken hours or days to produce traditionally now may take only minutes or even seconds. Regardless of where we may stand on the issue of AI, it is undoubtedly going to play a major part in the election of our next president. 


The Left, The Right, and AI

Like almost every other issue, polarization affects the conversation around the use of artificial intelligence. 

Both sides have utilized AI in a limited way, although it seems that the Left generally takes a more regulatory stance, using AI in a limited advertising capacity. On the other hand, the RNC created a dystopian video portraying the country in shambles if Biden were reelected in 2024. It is worth noting the RNC fully disclosed the fact that this was an AI-developed video, although there are no regulations requiring this disclosure yet. Nikki Haley (R-SC) has stated she is not using AI in her campaign. 

While the left has yet to follow suit with any AI-generated videos of their own, they are assuredly not neglecting the new technology. 

According to The Atlantic (Left bias), more than 1,000 Democratic campaigns and committees, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now-Senator John Fetterman, have utilized AI to aid in things such as finding donors and targeting voters. The Atlantic goes on to say that although many have not admitted it, campaigns big and small are utilizing generative-AI software to create digital ads, proofread, as well as write press releases and fundraising pitches.


How AI Can Impact Elections

Artificial intelligence can act as an aid in fact-checking and seeking out accurate information. Voters and candidates alike will be able to utilize AI in this manner to help make better decisions throughout the election journey. 

Contrarily, artificial intelligence also has the potential to spread and perpetuate disinformation and fake news if the algorithms are not accurate or have been intentionally manipulated. AI, like all other technologies, is not immune from human error and misuse.

The security of the election can be assisted by identifying cyber threats and fraud using artificial intelligence. This could protect voter data, as well as the entire electoral process. However, if AI systems are developed and used specifically for election security, they could become targets of cyberattacks such as algorithm manipulation, voter data interference, and infrastructure disruption.

Forecasting is a crucial part of any election campaign, however it is a process involving many people, resources, and time.  AI has access to vast amounts of personal data, including demographics, social media trends, and polling data, allowing for exponential gains on the entire forecasting process. With this data, it can be used to predict voter trends and forecast election results. Speeches and debates can be analyzed by using artificial intelligence, empowering political strategists regarding campaign initiatives and audience targeting.

One way that AI has already shown itself in this election is through deepfake videos, portraying people saying or doing things that they never did, thus undermining that person’s credibility and, ultimately, the integrity of the election. Aside from possibly defaming a candidate’s reputation, these videos and images deceive and sway many voters through false information and manipulation. 

AI is often associated with content creation (images, videos, speeches, essays, etc.). Paired with its ability to analyze vast amounts of data, including voter demographics and social media trends, AI could be used to develop ultra-personalized content for target audiences across all platforms. “AI enables very precise audience targeting, which is crucial in political campaigns. Candidates don’t want to waste money on those who already support or oppose their campaign.” (Brookings Institute, Center bias). Personal data can be exploited and abused, however, fueling concerns over privacy. 

AI will assuredly be looked to as a fact-reporter, so a biased AI system could easily hoodwink users who assume that the data is accurate and neutral. Because AI is trained on specific data sets, the possibility exists for the system to be biased. If this is the case, the output will also be biased. Considering the biased nature of the news media landscape today, it is not at all a stretch for one to be concerned about this. 

AI poses the ability to replace many different professions. In terms of the election, data analysts and canvassers, among many others, may be replaced by AI systems. 

While the prospect of people losing employment never sounds like a good thing, the use of AI could create a more efficient process, resulting in reducing the grandiose expenditures required to drive a campaign for public office today, opening the door wide to the possibility of less funded parties entering the political race. 

A lack of human oversight of these systems, though, could create a lack of accountability. Voters may sense the absence of human oversight which may lead to further marginalization between the government and the people.


Bipartisan Action on AI

While the right and left seem rarely to agree, there seems to be a great deal of bipartisan consensus on one thing: unregulated AI is concerning

At this time, there are “zero federal regulations in place to combat false AI-generated political stunts” (U.S. News and World Report, Lean Left bias). However, there is a strong consensus that some level of regulation is necessary. 

Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said of No Section 230 for AI Act, “Congress must move quickly. Many AI experts have pointed out that the government must have a role in how this technology enters our lives.  Even leaders of the industry say they welcome regulation.” Ted Cruz (R-TX) states in a Fox News report (Right bias), “I'm a believer in light touch regulations. And AI, over the coming decades, is certainly going to require a regulatory framework. But at this point, Congress doesn't have even the barest modicum of understanding. So it is far more likely that Congress would do harm than do good.” 

AI has the potential and the power to not just take center stage in the 2024 election, but to potentially determine the outcome. It is essential for voters to be aware of both the good and the bad that could come as a result. Regardless of our political leanings, we are all facing this technological revolution together.  

Johnathon Held (Lean Right) is a Research & Content Intern at AllSides.

This piece was reviewed by Henry A. Brechter, Editor-in-chief (Center bias), Isaiah Anthony, Deputy Blog Editor (Center bias), Joseph Ratliff, Daily News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias)