Our Take

Introducing Ballots and Bagels: Conversations with Trusted Election Sources, a new series from ASD where Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine discusses the successes and lessons learned from the 2022 U.S. primaries with the people who protect them. In the first installment, Harris County, Texas elections administrator Isabel Longoria explains what really went wrong in the state’s March primaries. Read our takeaways here and the full transcript here.

The United States should consider electoral fixes to help diffuse extreme polarization, including multimember districts, a proportional voting formula, and alternative voting measures like rank choice, Director Laura Thornton writes. 

Voters should choose candidates who will stand up for the process and procedures that are essential to a functioning democracy in the 2022 elections, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in The Fulcrum. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media highlighted the following narratives last week:

  • Gas: Russian diplomats and state media posted 764 tweets that referenced either “gas” or “rubles” as propagandists detailed Europe’s effort to cope with Russia’s move to cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay in rubles.
  • Poland’s land grab: Kremlin-linked accounts pushed disinformation about a Polish and U.S. plot to restore Poland’s control over its “historical possessions” in Ukraine.
  • Transnistria: Russian propagandists accused Ukraine, the United States, and NATO of trying to drag Moldova into the war by provoking tension within the breakaway region of Transnistria.

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives last week: 

  • Elon Musk: Mentions of Musk by Beijing-affiliated accounts climbed with news that the billionaire bought Twitter. Some accounts suggested China could leverage Musk’s business interests in the country to force Twitter to change policies around state media.  
  • Russian amplification: Some Chinese diplomats pushed back on U.S. claims that they were amplifying Russian propaganda, while other Chinese officials and state media shared Russian talking points about NATO provoking the conflict in Ukraine.    
  • Shanghai lockdown: The top two key phrases and hashtags in tweets by Chinese propagandists were related to the covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai, with Beijing-linked accounts highlighting Shanghai’s technological prowess and the threat of biased Western media. 

Read the full report here. 

News and Commentary

DHS manipulated election interference report under Trump: Former Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf delayed and altered an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election out of fear that its findings would embarrass then-President Donald Trump, according to a federal watchdog. Deputy Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, Politicization of intelligence about Russian interference in American democracy only plays into the Russian government’s hands. Russia’s overarching objective is to undermine trust in democracy and weaken our governing institutions over the long term, and it’s a more important goal than potentially swaying the results of any particular election. If U.S. officials politicize the threat from Russia, hide information from the American public about Russian operations, and consequently create domestic scandals that consume Washington’s attention, that’s inevitably a victory in the eyes of the Kremlin.”

EU commission near deal to phase out Russian oil imports: The European Commission is finalizing a plan to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the yeardespite objections from Hungary and Slovakiaafter Russia cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria last week. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina said, “Phasing out Russian oil is important for cutting off funding for Russia’s war chest. But it also has the potential to hurt normal Europeans, who have been suffering under high energy prices because of Russian behavior for the last year. Much of European sentiment is lined up to take this hard step to further decouple the energy sector, and it’s important to see whether European solidarity and ambition on this holds.”

U.S. and 60 global partners pledge to keep a free, open internet: The United States and 60 global partners signed the Declaration for the Future of the Internet to counter the rise of digital authoritarianism and advance an open, democratic internet that promotes human rights, privacy, and the free flow of information. Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman said, “The declaration reflects a vital recognition among rule-of-law countries that it’s not enough for democracies simply to stand up against techno-authoritarianism. They also must craft a vision in the emerging technology era of what they stand for. While there’s no easy work ahead in forging this shared vision among more than 60 countries, the set of principles agreed to is an excellent first step towards a values-based internet in which free societies can thrive.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board has ignited a debate over the government’s role in policing information.
  • Russian-backed hackers launched more than 237 cyber operations against Ukraine that have sought to disrupt critical infrastructure and access to reliable information, a Microsoft report found
  • Since the 2020 election, Republican officials and activists have attempted to gain unauthorized access to voting systems eight times in five states in search of evidence of alleged voter fraud. 
  • Russian forces restored internet access to Kherson, Ukraine after rerouting service through Russian networks to make Russia’s “false propaganda an uncontested source of information.”
  • A Russian troll factory instructed followers to target western media outlets and politicians to manipulate public opinion and amplify pro-Kremlin narratives on social media,  according to the U.K. government.  
  • EUvsDisinfo started publishing reports in Chinese to counter Beijing’s information campaigns around the war in Ukraine. 

ASD in the News

Exclusive: Russian media’s reach in U.S. limited after invasion, DHS document says. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Yahoo News

Ukraine war: Data shows tighter convergence of Chinese, Russian messaging, US analysts say. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in South China Morning Post 

Disnfo Wars. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Politico 

EU Faces Major Test as Russia Cuts Off Gas to Poland and Bulgaria. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson

Briefing: How the People’s Republic of China Amplifies Russian Disinformation. Bret Schafer participated in a U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center briefing 

How Donald Trump’s ‘big lie’ continues to shape GOP campaigns in Idaho elections. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Idaho Statesman

China’s Messaging On The Ukraine War Is Evolving, But In Which Way? ASD research cited in RFE/RL

People’s Republic of China Efforts to Amplify the Kremlin’s Voice on Ukraine. ASD research cited by the U.S. Department of State

Quote of the Week

“The future of the Internet is also the future of democracy, of humankind.”

  • President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on the Declaration of the Future of the Internet on April 28, 2022.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.