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Disinformation could keep millions of midterm election voters at home

  • Disinformation could keep millions of voters of color out of the midterms.
  • Disinformation is “becoming endemic. It’s becoming part of day-to-day life,” one expert told USA TODAY.
  • “It’s so much easier to lie to someone than to convince someone they’ve been lied to,” one nonprofit chief said.
  • Pastor: “We know there are going to be threats this fall, but we also know our vote is our voice.”
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WASHINGTON–Sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows at the historic Campbell AME Church in Anacostia as Pastor Terrance McKinley sat in a pew, thinking of how he’d fight midterm disinformation in communities of color – the kind of community right outside the sanctuary doors.  

Since that August day, his first time back to the pulpit after a medical leave, he has spent part of every Sunday sermon talking about the upcoming election.  

“There’s a concern about bad actors and voter intimidation, misinformation and disinformation,” McKinley said. “One of our greatest challenges will be the couch. Our democracy is so fragile we can’t afford to have anyone stay home.” 

McKinley isn’t just another Black pastor trying to turn out the Black vote. He is on the front lines of a bigger fight to save democracy – and one of the only defenses the country has – against disinformation, which is hard to trace yet powerful enough to swing U.S. elections.  

Pastor Terrance McKinley poses for a portrait at Campbell AME Church in Washington DC on Aug. 11, 2022. McKinley works on racial justice and the impact of election disinformation targeted at communities of color through faith based programs in 10 states.

Disinformation is spreading rapidly through America, disseminating intentional lies disguised as truth. Sometimes the lies are designed to prevent people from voting by confusing them on how, when and where to vote. Sometimes the lies play on fears to try to make them vote a certain way. 

“It’s becoming endemic,” said Sam Woolley, program director of the Propaganda Research Team at the University of Texas. “It’s becoming something that we’re just accepting in our society. It’s becoming part of day-to-day life. That we’re inured to it almost.” 

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