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How Do We Put Trust Back In The Political Process? UC Aims To Find Out

UC researchers seek to create messaging that brings people back to that "greater civic value."
UC researchers seek to create messaging that brings people back to that "greater civic value."

As other countries try to influence Americans' votes - and political analysts say they will - Ohio will likely be one of the top states on the list to disrupt and undermine. University of Cincinnati researchers want to bring legitimacy back into the election process and say they have a plan.

Professor Richard Harknett, who heads UC's Department of Political Science and co-directs The Ohio Cyber Range Institute (OCRI), will put together a representation of the electorate in August and try to determine what undermines trust.

By presenting visual cues like tweets or Facebook posts, Harknett and others hope to recommend messaging to election officials that can bring people back to that "greater civic value."

"We've always come together in the end because the democratic process is what we value," Harknett says, "So, we'll have a really intense campaign; a really tough fight. Somebody's going to win. Somebody's going to lose and you have to accept that loss, dust yourself off and get ready for the next election."

Worrisome are bots that make it look like there are 10,000 likes on a post when, in fact it is just one with a compromised computer that continues to run an algorithm. "How do you convince the public that this was in fact manipulation or are people just going to roll their eyes?" Harknett asks.

He says there are ways to "own your vote." They include visiting your state's secretary of state's website to make sure you are registered to vote and if not, getting information from the Board of Elections. He says get election information from multiple sources - don't rely on one Facebook post. Harknett even suggests determining whether or not your state's secretary of state has a history of bipartisanship and see what they are saying about the election.

The UC study is expected to be finished in mid-September.

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With more than 20 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.