The 5 Most Pressing Threats To The 2024 Election

Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

The last presidential election flipped democracy on its head after conspiracy theories and Trump’s desperation to stay in power helped fuel a violent insurrection, an attempted legal coup and the spread of election disinformation at a national and local level. Heading into 2024, experts who spoke to TPM warn those same threats, and more sinister outgrowths of them, will plague this year’s presidential election too. 

Even though this time around election officials might have a better sense of what sorts of threats to expect and just how dangerous these threats are, there are not yet clear answers on how to mitigate them completely. Instead, voting experts say that it may fall on the very election workers being targeted to rebut disinformation and defend the democratic process, by preemptively flooding the scene with factual information on how elections work in their jurisdictions to minimize the threat of misinformation. They also recommend election workers develop relationships with local law enforcement to protect against violent harassment and intimidation to voters and officials. It’s a bleak time to take the job. 

According to elections experts and voting officials, the most pressing threats to the 2024 election can be narrowed down to five categories.

Election Deniers Are Running The Show 

One of the most significant threats to the upcoming election is that many of the elected representatives who denied the integrity of the 2020 election, remain in power and threaten to once again disrupt the country’s democratic processes — an outgrowth of 2020 election denialism. 

“If representatives still remain committed to anti-democratic forces, they still have the power to create a fair amount of disruption,” Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Law School, told TPM.  

Almost a third of sitting members of Congress attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election either by refusing to certify the results on Jan. 6, spreading baseless voter fraud claims, refusing to concede a race, or supporting meritless legal challenges to the results of the election, according to data from the nonpartisan States United Action

The excuse for the 147 members of Congress who signed onto a baseless election challenge, even after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, were largely rooted in debunked election fraud claims that typically originated at the local level — the type of commonplace election administration glitches or errors that conspiracy theorists seize upon to bolster their baseless widespread fraud claims.

In places like Antrim County, Michigan, for example, bogus allegations of voter fraud circulated after the county inadvertently misreported a number of unofficial votes in 2020. The mistake, which Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced was simply a “human error” was quickly corrected and did not impact the results of the election. But despite the explanation, the incident has persisted as a talking point for many election deniers who hold public office. 

“Incidents like the one in Antrim County simply serve as an excuse,” explained Levitt,  “this is a fact free political protest, and so it doesn’t need fuel. They will invent their own fuel, unfortunately, because they invented the fuel in 2020.”

Election misinformation and disinformation

Another deluge of misinformation and disinformation is inevitable in November, and among the most pressing threats to the election.  

From fake robocalls in New Hampshire impersonating President Biden’s voice to social media companies deregulating their content moderation, experts told TPM they’re bracing for another onslaught of voter misinformation and disinformation in 2024.

False election information can generate both from “well-meaning people” who simply don’t know how election systems work, and bad actors — foreign or domestic — who are attempting to disrupt the election process and deliberately spread false information and disinformation. The former registrar of voters for Orange County, California Neal Kelley told TPM he expects to see both this cycle.

That disinformation could take several forms in 2024, from vintage claims of mass “voter fraud” to debunked conspiracy theories  about hacked voting machines that spread after the 2020 election.

“I think that there is going to be widespread disinformation about voter fraud, about election rigging, about voting machines,” David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, as well as the co-founder of ERIC, a voter roll maintenance system recently demonized by the far-right. “And that will be designed to lay the groundwork for further attacks on the legitimacy of an election that the preferred candidates of those who are spreading it might lose.”

And there’s no surefire way to prevent misinformation and disinformation, but, explained Levitt, it can be helpful to think about it as a supply and demand issue.

“You are never going to get at the issue solely by trying to limit supply,” he said. “It’s just not possible.” Instead, he said, the best way to counter misinformation and disinformation is to flood the zone with accurate information. 

David Levine, senior elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, also emphasized that foreign adversaries continue to be an issue in the upcoming election. In particular, he mentioned Russia and China as potential foreign interference threats, both of which he said “have rapidly evolving capabilities” to use things like AI to perpetuate disinformation, a step advanced from the Russian troll farm interference and Trump campaign collusion of both 2016 and 2020

Violence, harassment, and intimidation of election workers 

Just as they had four years ago, 2024 election workers will face a torrent of threats and intimidation this election cycle. 

Spurred by former President Trump and his allies’ repeated claims that the 2020 election was stolen, election officials — from secretaries of states to local poll workers — faced death threats and online harassment during and after the 2020 election. 

The threats, harassment, and intimidation, were and continued to be so widespread after Biden was sworn into office that the Department of Justice launched an Election Threats Task Force in 2021 to address the issue specifically. As of last August, according to the Justice Department, the task force has brought charges in 14 cases and had nine convictions related to election worker threats. 

For example, as recently as this month, a California man was arrested for leaving a threatening voicemail for a Maricopa County election official in November 2022. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum of five years in prison

But it’s not just threats. A failed New Mexico state House candidate, sparked by his 2022 election loss, was arrested in January for a series of shootings at the houses of two county commissioners and two state legislators. Solomon Peña pleaded guilty last month. 

Last August, a man pleaded guilty to sending a bomb threat to former Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, saying in an online message form Hobbs should “resign by Tuesday Feb. 16 by 9 a.m. or the explosive device impacted in her personal space will be detonated.”

The violent threats and intimidation are only expected to ramp up this year, experts told TPM, and might be particularly pervasive if the race ends up being close, Kelley, a victim himself of “failed threats” during and after the 2020 election, said. He described his own experience fielding the harassment as “unnerving” because there’s no way of knowing “what’s going to come around the corner.” 

 “I think there’s going to be this push just like we saw in 2020 against the system and against officials,” he said. 

The weaponization of a decentralized election system

Bad faith actors will weaponize a complicated election system and use it as a way to shake voter confidence.

Levine firmly expects malign actors to once again take advantage of the country’s decentralized and complex election administration to cast doubt on the system as a whole. 

At best, he said, voters have some knowledge about election procedures where they vote, but not elsewhere. This means that if voting processes look different county to county or state to state, bad faith actors will weaponize these differences to push false voter fraud claims. 

“That has clearly been something that malign actors have capitalized on to try and diminish folks’ confidence in the election results,” he said. 

In 2020, for example, Trump and some of his supporters latched on to the fact that Pennsylvania’s election results were not immediately available, alleging that the delay in results was evidence of election fraud. In reality, Pennsylvania’s more than 2.8 million requested mail-in ballots could not be opened for processing until election morning, so a delay in counting these votes was in no way evidence of an illegitimate election. 

Voter suppression and voter intimidation

Increasingly restrictive voter laws and voter intimidation will prevent people from voting. 

Last year, 14 states passed restrictive voting laws that will be implemented in the 2024 election, according to the Brennan Center. These laws, which will make it harder for voters to cast a ballot, include measures like limits on mail-in voting, making the window to request a mail-in ballot smaller, as well as stricter voter ID laws

It’s not just restrictive voter laws that experts are worried about. There’s also the issue of in-person intimidation at the ballot box, too.

During the 2022 elections, there were reports of armed and masked individuals, accused of voter intimidation, watching over ballot drop boxes in Mesa, Arizona. The activist appeared to be part of a right-wing group that was formerly known as Clean Elections USA. They claimed they were monitoring the ballot boxes to supposedly prevent voter fraud

“Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity,” Maricopa county supervisor Bill Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer said in an October 2022 statement. “Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints.”

Ahead of 2024, Kelley, the former Orange County election administration official, is concerned about similar voter intimidation tactics. 

He specially mentioned “swatting incidents,” which involve making a false emergency call prompting a SWAT team to show up, in this case, at a vote center. 

“I don’t want to say the sky’s falling,” said Kelley, “but I really think that one or two incidents that can just have such a wide dramatic effect on people and how they vote and where they vote.”

Correction: This article originally misattributed the source of a tally of the members of Congress who sought to overturn the 2020 election.

Latest Five Points
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: