Election securityAhead of the 2020 election: National response to confront foreign interference

Published 11 June 2019

Stanford University scholars outline a detailed strategy for how to protect the integrity of American elections – including recommendations such as requiring a paper trail of every vote cast and publishing information about a campaign’s connections with foreign nationals.

Scholars from Stanford University put forward a comprehensive strategy for what needs to be done to protect the integrity and independence of U.S. elections, with a keen focus on the upcoming presidential campaign in 2020.

The report draws on findings that emerged from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, as well as other independent research about vulnerabilities in the American election system. The report — Securing American Elections: Prescriptions for Enhancing the Integrity and Independence of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and Beyond — offers over 45 specific policy recommendations to help the nation’s lawmakers and technology sector leaders deter potential threats from foreign and domestic actors seeking to illegally disrupt the American electoral process.

As the Mueller inquiry made clear, the scale and scope of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election was unprecedented, said Michael McFaul, editor and co-author of the Securing American Elections report. But what was not in Mueller’s mandate was to provide recommendations for how to deter meddling in future elections – which is where the Securing American Elections report comes in, said McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 and is now director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford.

“We know more than ever before about what happened in the 2016 election. Now we need to pivot to what needs to be done to prevent it in the future – from concrete legislative acts as well as steps that online platforms can take even without legislation,” said McFaul, who is also the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor in International Studies in the department of political science and a senior fellow at FSI and the Hoover Institution.

Authors of the Securing American Elections report include scholars affiliated with the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, a newly launched hub at FSI to bring researchers from across disciplines together to address the threats cyber technologies pose to security and governance worldwide.