RELEASE: New CAP Report Leverages Lessons From European Elections for Combating Foreign Interference in the U.S.

Washington, D.C. — With little more than a year until the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, the country is underprepared to deal with the looming threat of foreign election interference. In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, former special counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russians were already interfering in the forthcoming elections, saying, “They’re doing it as we sit here.”  Yet, legislation to bolster election security has stalled in Congress, and policymakers have consistently held back on taking meaningful action to address these threats.  A new report today from the Center for American Progress assesses the shortcomings facing the country ahead of 2020 and offers solutions gleaned from how European countries have successfully—or unsuccessfully—addressed Russian interference in their own post-2016 elections.

“America is not ready for the next foreign election interference attack,” said James Lamond, a senior policy adviser at CAP and co-author of the report. “Unlike in 2016, however, we don’t have to be blindsided by interference from Russia or other hostile foreign actors. Many countries in Europe have developed effective deterrents to election interference. It’s not too late to put some of those best practices to work here in the United States—but stakeholders in the government, media, and political campaigns need to act quickly.”

The authors comprehensively assess the many ways interference can occur. For example, they find that active measures are not limited to just tactics such as the now-infamous work of troll farms, but also include illicit financing, hacking, and state-sponsored amplification of fringe political movements. The report looks at several case studies of European elections that have happened since 2016, concluding that while there’s no silver bullet for stopping all foreign meddling, a full arsenal of tools deployed from every corner of society affords a country the strongest defense against an election interference attack. The case studies showcase how various stakeholders such as government officials, the media, the public, and candidates responded to election interference in Europe and highlight the efficacy of these responses.

Recommendations for how the United States can apply these lessons at home include:

  • A forceful, whole-of-government response, with or without the support of the administration
  • Increased transparency around campaign finance, disclosure of interference attempts, and a holistic understanding of what happened in 2016 via full release of the Mueller report
  • Upgrading critical election infrastructure, particularly through the use of paper ballots
  • A concentrated effort from the American media to develop standards for dealing with disinformation and stolen materials and
  • Better awareness and regulation of foreign money in U.S. elections

Click here to read the report: “Democratic Resilience: A Comparative Review of Russian Interference in Democratic Elections and Lessons Learned for Securing Future Elections” by James Lamond and Talia Dessel.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Morgan Finkelstein or 202-478-5311.