“As Russia’s online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results,” the New York Times reports.
What were these tactics?
The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.
In other words, the tactic was to disseminate false information to damage the Demcorats’ political opponent and suppress voters.
Which sounds remarkably similar to what North Dakota Democrats attempted to do on Facebook earlier this year.
In late October/early November the North Dakota Democratic party created a Facebook page for a phony baloney group called “Hunter Alert,” complete with a logo. That page then disseminated messaging (which the Democrats paid to promote) suggesting that hunters who voted might be putting their out-of-state licenses at risk.
Politifact called the claim a pants-on-fire lie:
After I broke a story about this effort, Senator Heidi Heitkamp defended the actions of her state party. “It is really important people understand the consequences of voting,” she said in response to a question about them.
Facebook itself, battered of late by accusations claiming they facilitate electoral meddling, ultimately pulled the ads.
Back to the New York Times report, if Democrats were dabbling in these tactics in Alabama, could this ad in North Dakota have been part of the same effort?
Either way, it was a despicable attempt at voter suppression, though not the only example of North Dakota Democrats attempting to win with misleading tactics. The party sent out mailers promoting a conservative-leaning independent candidate for Secretary of State, no doubt hoping to split Republican voters enough to give their candidate Josh Boschee the win.
It didn’t work. Boschee lost, and returned to his seat in the Legislature. He’s since been elected the leader of the Democratic caucus in the state House.