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AI and 2024 elections: Q&A with Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

Attorney General Jason Miyares at a Norfolk press conference in 2023. (Photo by Mechelle Hankerson)
Attorney General Jason Miyares at a Norfolk press conference in 2023. (Photo by Mechelle Hankerson)


Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and other states are taking action against a new form of voter misinformation: robocalls made using artificial intelligence.

Miyares joined 50 other attorneys general in writing a letter to Life Corporation (Life Corp), who allegedly sent New Hampshire residents scam election robocalls during the New Hampshire primary election.

The company used artificial intelligence to mimic President Joe Biden’s voice and tell people not to vote.

Here’s what he told WHRO’s Doug Boynton about the calls and how Virginians can protect themselves from misused artificial intelligence in an election year.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Doug Boynton: Have we learned any more about Life Corp and who they might have been working for or anything behind the mischief they were spreading?

Attorney General Jason Miyares: No, that's too early at this stage to know exactly. It does seem like the phone calls they were making [were] trying to discourage Democratic participation in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. And, you know, our view is that organizations that intentionally mislead voters will be held accountable.

In Virginia, that's obviously where I have jurisdictional control. … The right to free and fair elections is the bedrock of our American experiment. We're proud to be able to work with [attorneys general] around the country in both parties that are united in agreement that we're not going to tolerate these actors. Particularly, they're using this kind of new emerging technology of AI to try and rob Americans of one of their most absolute, fundamental, most precious rights, which is, the right to have their voice heard at the ballot box.

So we thought it was important when I talk to my fellow colleagues that we set a precedent early on, given the fact that we think AI is only going to be increased by everybody in society, including campaigns, to make everybody aware of what is ethical and responsible ways. And this is not one this was. This is a very deceitful action by this company.

D.B: How can people protect themselves against this kind of stuff if we expect that it may be increasing as the election season rolls along?

J.M: We experienced this some in 2022. Our office had some individuals that, an entity, that was sending text messages telling people to go to the wrong place to go vote. And, as a result, we notified them and cease and desist. We think that we have to be ever-vigilant on this, for sure. I think you're going to see more of it. We just want to be very watchful of this. 

This is the first that I have heard of somebody using AI specifically to mimic someone's voice to do this type of robocall. What I would tell citizens to do is, if you get a text message, if you get information, go to your local voter registrar's website. Go to the state Board of Elections website. They will provide links and information on where your polling place is, where to go vote when the polling, when the voting occurs, the hours, and if you're voting, absentee or early in-person absentee balloting, where to go vote as well. And how to cast your ballot. 

So go to a trusted, website, either with your registrar or your state Board of Elections, to get the right information. I'm a big believer in the best way to fight bad information is with the right information.

D.B: If I could change the subject briefly, I'm wondering your observations on this year's General Assembly so far.

J.M: I know the governor's working with the General Assembly. We have a divided government and they're a very, very closely divided assembly is not surprising. And the governor’s trying to get additional tax relief for hard working Virginians. 

I know as attorney general there's two pieces of legislation in particular that I've been keeping an eye on. One is the bill that would allow you to charge people that are dealing fentanyl [with] a felony homicide. If you're lacing these counterfeit pills, whether it's a fake Adderall or an extra Percocet pill, with fentanyl, it's like giving somebody rat poison. And if it results in a death, you should be able to be prosecuted for felony homicide. 

That tragically was a bill that previously had significant bipartisan support and Ralph Northam had vetoed it. And tragically, we have seen that bipartisan support evaporate. It continues to die on a party-line vote. … It’s something that I know as a top priority for the governor, for myself and very frustrated that it is not getting to his desk to get signed.

One-hundred-eight-thousand Americans died in the last 12 months from overdose deaths. That is the equivalent of two Vietnam Wars, which we lost roughly 50 some thousand Americans in the 15 years. It's like two Vietnam wars happening every 12 months. So the addiction crisis, I think every tool, including giving tools to prosecutors, to go after these dealers. 

And then obviously, we're also hearing a lot of discussion right now about this so-called lookback bill that I think is unfortunate. I think it's a backdoor way to have parole where people will get a resentencing hearing after 15 years, which really means the victims have to relive after already testifying at sentencing, the impact [of] crimes.

I can't imagine a pain a rape victim or a  parent that had a murdered child has to go through, having to go back and and re-testify in court; what the the trauma of that crime, the impact of that that on them. And so we'll see where that is. That has not gone out of the House yet. But those are two public safety measures and I'm watching very closely.

Doug Boynton is the afternoon host for the “All Things Considered” weekday afternoons on WHRV. He grew up in Michigan, but he believes spending more than half his adult life in Virginia makes him a Virginian.

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