This workshop is the culmination of a collaboration between the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), and the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). This short term, high impact project convenes national security and legal policy professionals and academics at the forefront of research and engagement in foreign interference in democratic elections issues, foreign intelligence activities, and election administration and security. The project aims to assess the level of foreign malign activities on the forthcoming 2020 elections, identify efforts to prevent such influence, and develop strategies that will help to ensure voter confidence in the integrity of the election process and its outcome. 

Concerns over foreign interference in U.S. institutions go back to the Founding Fathers. In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote that foreign interference is one of the most “deadly adversaries of republican government.” The Founders included provisions in the Constitution designed to protect against foreign interference, and reports and writings from the period indicate their extensive understanding of the dangers foreign interference could pose. Russia’s influence campaign on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, reports of continuing Russian interference in the 2018 mid-terms, and reports of other countries like China, North Korea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia attempting to influence U.S. institutions through covert operations support Hamilton’s well-founded concerns.

While foreign interference is not new, methods have changed and amplified its impact. These include the advent of social media, the conversion to electronic records and communication as the primary mode of interaction, a sophisticated global financial system, and the ability to transfer large amounts of money in fractions of a second. These and a host of other developments have enabled foreign interference in U.S. institutions.

Participants in this high-level workshop will assess threats to the integrity of U.S. elections from foreign powers in the run up to the 2020 elections. Has the nature of the threats the United States faces changed in any way since 2016? What preventive measures have been implemented at the federal, state, and local levels to deal with foreign interference in U.S. elections? Has the response to this security crisis been adequate and effective? Will we be able to trust that the outcome of the 2020 election is not the product of foreign interference? And if the United States can limit foreign influence in elections, will that be enough to restore voter confidence? Are there legislative solutions that can bridge the partisan conflation of the terms “election security” and “election reform”?

This workshop will take stock of the current threat of foreign influence in the 2020 election cycle, identify what efforts have been made to prevent such influence, and develop strategies to restore voter confidence in the integrity of the election process. Academics, lawyers, policymakers, and government officials will gather to discuss these critically important issues and propose concrete solutions that policymakers can implement.