RELEASE: Protecting U.S. Elections From Foreign Interference—Lessons From 2016

Washington, D.C. — Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election served as a sharp wake-up call for Americans, who learned how a hostile foreign power could threaten the integrity of the democratic process.

A new report from the Center for American Progress offers concrete lessons that U.S. officials can learn from Russia’s meddling and specific steps that should be taken between now and any future elections to shield the vote from foreign interference.

By better sharing information, increasing transparency for the public, creating deterrence for foreign actors, and—most importantly—being vigilant, the U.S. government, Congress, social media companies, state and local officials, and the public at large can protect themselves from the influence of authoritarian leaders, the report says.

“America was caught off guard in 2016, but there are no excuses in future elections,” said James Lamond, co-author of the report and a fellow on CAP’s National Security and International Policy team. “All Americans, regardless of their political party, have a duty to prevent this interference from undermining our elections. Only by showing that their efforts cannot be effective and that there is a price to pay will authoritarian governments fully understand that it is simply not worth it.”

The report recounts the myriad attacks on the election process in 2016 and 2018 and offers specific recommendations to help blunt the impact of such tactics in the future:

  • Congress should pass legislation that prohibits political campaigns and foreign governments from exchanging campaign information and requires campaigns to report any foreign government offers of assistance.
  • Government officials, political candidates, the media, and voters must be vigilant about interference and keep their guards up.
  • Social media companies must aggressively combat online disinformation or face consequences.
  • Interagency and intergovernmental information sharing must be improved.
  • There must be congressional oversight and, where appropriate, public disclosure of interference.
  • Political candidates should declare their intent to respond to foreign interference with sanctions commensurate with the level of interference that takes place.
  • U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies should conduct a comprehensive review of foreign interference attempts and recommendations in every future election.

Read the report: “Blunting Foreign Interference Efforts by Learning the Lessons of the Past” by James Lamond and Jeremy Venook.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or 202-478-6327.