Reports & Papers

8 Items

Voters mark their ballots during early voting at the Park Slope Armory in Brooklyn, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Report - Defending Digital Democracy

Beyond 2020: Policy Recommendations for the Future of Election Security

February 2021

The 2020 election presents a paradox. Despite dramatic changes to the election process due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasingly complex threats since the 2016 election, 2020 is widely regarded as “the most secure [election] in American history.” Operationally, it was also one of the smoothest. State and local election officials overcame unprecedented challenges and scarce resources to administer an election with fewer incidents of cyber compromises, technical failures or long lines than anticipated. After Election Day, recount procedures functioned as designed. Yet, amidst these successes, officials from both parties faced a barrage of mis- and disinformation about the election process that served to undermine confidence in the result.

Though the election security ecosystem survived the triple threat of cybersecurity, physical security, and mis- and disinformation in 2020, this success will prove to be hard to replicate in future election cycles without proper investment and reinforcement.

A staff member in the Kweisi Mfume campaign uses gloves while holding a cell phone during an election night news conference at his campaign headquarters after Mfume, a Democrat, won Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special election, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Baltimore.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Report

The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 1

| September 2020

Influence Operations (IO), also known as Information Operations, are a series of warfare tactics historically used to collect information, influence, or disrupt the decision making of an adversary. IO strategies intentionally disseminate information to manipulate public opinion and/or influence behavior. IO can involve a number of tactics, including spreading false information intentionally. This is known as “disinformation.”   

Skilled influence operations often deliberately spread disinformation in highly public places like social media. This is done in the hope that people who have no connection to the operation will mistakenly share this disinformation. Inaccurate information spread in error without malicious intent is known as “misinformation.” 

This playbook explores mis- and disinformation incidents that specifically focus on elections operations and infrastructure. Election officials may not often see or know what the motivation is behind the incidents encountered or whether they are mis- or disinformation. Throughout these guides we refer to mis/disinformation incidents together, as the strategies for countering or responding to them are the same.  

Voters wait in a line outside Broad Ripple High School to vote in the Indiana primary in Indianapolis, Tuesday, June 2, 2020 after coronavirus concerns prompted officials to delay the primary from its original May 5 date.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Report

The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 2

| September 2020

This section of the Playbook includes recommendations and materials focused on the response process. It will help election officials respond to election-related mis and disinformation incidents quickly and in a coordinated fashion. 

In this playbook, we refer to mis/disinformation throughout as one concept. Instances of both misinformation and disinformation in the elections process provide incorrect information to voters. Incorrect information can be conveyed intentionally or unintentionally. For election officials, any incorrect information, regardless of source or intention, presented to voters can pose a threat to elections, because it can undermine voters’ understanding of and trust in the election.

Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci

AP/Alex Brandon

Paper - Centre for International Governance Innovation

US Intelligence, the Coronavirus and the Age of Globalized Challenges

| Aug. 24, 2020

This essay makes three arguments. First, the US government will need to establish a coronavirus commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, to determine why, since April 2020, the United States has suffered more coronavirus fatalities than any other country in the world. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic represents a watershed for what will be a major national security theme this century: biological threats, both from naturally occurring pathogens and from synthesized biology. Third, intelligence about globalized challenges, such as pandemics, needs to be dramatically reconceptualized, stripping away outmoded levels of secrecy.

In this April 22, 2020 photo, Gerard Bakulikira, right, and captain Tim Daghelet, left, both wear a Romware COVID Radius digital bracelet, which flashes red when people are too close to each other and creates a log of contacts. 

AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Paper

Considerations for Digital Contact Tracing Tools for COVID-19 Mitigation: Recommendations for Stakeholders and Policymakers

Many are looking to digital contact tracing to assist reopening efforts, especially in light of reports that the U.S. could expect as many as 100,000 more deaths due to the virus by this Fall. This report focuses on how the U.S. might consider various proposed solutions.

We believe there are real benefits, challenges, and even potential harms in using digital solutions in the fight against COVID-19, but we must also acknowledge that the promise of any technology and associated systems to assist manual contact tracing efforts is largely hypothetical in the United States. There is not one catch-all answer; the truth is that technology is not a panacea, but it may be able to assist official efforts at an unprecedented time. However, no technological solution can succeed without two specific factors: public trust and buy-in, and rapid, widespread testing for everyone living in the U.S. To achieve the first, a number of factors must be addressed by officials in the states looking to implement digital solutions, and by technology developers.
 

Advocacy groups display a thousand signs that read #GetUsPPE, along images of health care workers, in a call for personal protective equipment for frontline health workers during the coronavirus outbreak, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Washington.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Paper

Coronavirus as a Strategic Challenge: Has Washington Misdiagnosed the Problem?

| April 2020

With reservations about venturing into territory outside our normal wheelhouse, and in full certainty that some of what we write here will in retrospect turn out to have been wrong, a team of researchers at the Belfer Center and I have been collecting all the data we have been able to find about coronavirus, analyzing it to the best of our ability, and debating competing answers to the fundamental questions about the challenge this novel virus poses to our nation.

What follows is our current first-approximation of a work in progress. We are posting at this point in the hope of stimulating a wider debate that will include a much larger number of analysts beyond public health professionals and epidemiologists—including in particular intelligence officers, financial wizards, historians, and others.

Voters line up in voting booths to cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The mural in the background was painted by 3rd and 4th graders at the school in preparation for Veterans Day.

Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Paper

The Elections Battle Staff Playbook

December 2019

Our previous Playbooks have focused on the threats posed by cyber attacks and information operations. This Playbook has a broader scope, and equips you with strategies to operationalize the guidance from past Playbooks through effective preparation, communication, incident tracking, and team organization. By compiling best practices from private and public sector actors, we hope to enhance the capacity of your election team, regardless of your staff or jurisdiction size. It will better prepare you to identify issues and respond to incidents of all types during election operations.