Our Take

State and local entities must leverage their community resources, funding, and experienced leaders to retain election officials and protect them from bad faith actors seeking to undermine trust in democracy, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said on the Conduit Street podcast.

Russia’s Yandex search engine aggregates a significant number of articles that quote conservative American columnists, Deputy Director David Salvo finds in the latest analysis of data from our Yandex Dashboard.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main topics last week: 

  • Boris Johnson: Kremlin-linked accounts took aim at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he announced his resignation, with posts calling him names, pointing to his scandals, criticizing his support for Ukraine, and speculating about his replacement.
  • Shinzo Abe: Russian propagandists were largely sympathetic after former prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was assassinated, though some accounts critiqued his policies and others spread conspiracies about his murder being planned. 
  • Bioweapons: Russia’s Ministry of Defense rolled out new details to advance its conspiracy about US bioweapons in Ukraine, claiming that the United States spread disease via ticks and wild boar and that members of the Ukrainian military were experimented on.

Chinese diplomats and state media highlighted three narratives last week: 

  • Xinjiang: Xinjiang was a top messaging priority for Chinese accounts, with the region registering as the most used key phrase and hashtag by monitored Chinese accounts. 
  • US police brutality: Chinese officials took aim at US police brutality after the killing of Jayland Walker, prompting comparisons to the murder of George Floyd and claims that many people around the world cannot breathe under US hegemony. 
  • US human rights: Beijing-affiliated accounts bashed the United States on human rights issues by highlighting the number of bombs dropped in Laos during the Vietnam war and showcasing NATO’s bombings of Kosovo and Iraq. 

Read the full report here. 

News and Commentary

China competition bill stalls: Amid partisan disagreements over an economic reconciliation bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been stalling negotiations on the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA)a bill that would bolster US competition with China by investing about $50 billion in the semiconductor industry and more than $100 billion in the National Science Foundation for research and development. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “Ensuring US and democratic leadership in frontier technologies is as much about strengthening our own hand as it is about preventing technologies from being abused by authoritarians. The first movers and the developers of novel machine learning systems, quantum computers, and advanced biotechnology will write the global rules for everyone else. It is past time to invest in the hard edges underlying our competitiveness.”

Polish PM accuses Russia of hacking, leaking government emails: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Russia of hacking government systems and leaking emails that allegedly expose the ruling party’s ties to the judiciary in retaliation for the country’s support for Ukraine. Deputy Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, Hacking and leaking sensitive government communications is a key tactic of Russia’s asymmetric activity to undermine democracy beyond its borders. Americans will recall the critical role Russia’s hack and leak campaign played during the 2016 presidential election. Yet it is no surprise the Kremlin would set its sights on Poland, a staunch supporter of Ukraine and vocal opponent of Russian aggression and interference across Europe. Russia hacked and leaked material from the Polish government that by all accounts seems not to be fabricated. It was done to embarrass the Polish government, reduce Poles’ confidence in it, and probably punish Warsaw for its role in providing defense support to Ukrainian forces.”

New report details problems contributing to vote count delays during Harris County, TX March primary: A preliminary draft of a third-party elections report found that understaffing, new voting machines, an under resourced elections office, the covid-19 pandemic, and lack of funding for voter education contributed to the slow reporting of results and uncounted ballots in Harris County, Texas during the March 3 primary. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said, “Election after-action reports are a great way to assess and improve the administration of elections and this preliminary draft evaluation of Harris County’s March 2022 primary election is no exception. Through in-depth interviews with important stakeholders, analysis of election judge and poll worker post-election surveys, and a review of call log data and communications from the County Office of the Election Administrator, there is an increasingly clear sense of what contributed to Harris County’s primary elections problems and what can be done to avert them going forward. The report, which tracks closely with what former Harris County elections administrator Isabel Longoria and I discussed during the inaugural episode of Ballots and Bagels: Conversations with Trusted Election Sources, also provides a roadmap for how other jurisdictions can seek to continuously improve their election operations.”

In Case You Missed It   

  • Russia has been using a combination of criminal charges and pressure on technology companies to silence expats critical of the war in Ukraine, Bloomberg reports
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes are illegal in the state and that voters must personally return completed ballots to their clerk’s office. 
  • Russian state gas giant Gazprom shut off gas flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for scheduled maintenance, heightening fears that the gas deliveries may not resume after repairs are completed.   
  • Pro-Russian hacking group Killnet conducted a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that briefly disrupted access to Congress.gov, a website that posts information on US bills, hearings, and congressional deliberations.  
  • Apple will introduce “Lockdown Mode,” a new security feature designed to prevent government spyware from hacking into iPhones.
  • Myanmar’s junta government is installing Chinese-built security and facial recognition cameras in more cities across the country to maintain security and “civil peace.”

ASD in the News

Conduit Street Podcast: Safe and Smart Elections With David Levine. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Conduit Street 

Executives seek briefings on Taiwan war risk. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in Financial Times 

An Energy Strategy to Defeat Russia? Co-Director Zack Cooper hosts War on the Rocks’ Net Assessment

China exploits search engines to advance propaganda. ASD research cited in Taiwan News

Trump reacts to shooting of ‘true friend’ Shinzo Abe. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in the Washington Examiner

Quote of the Week

“The bottom line is we can, we did, and we will continue to succeed in managing a fair and secure democracy if the people leading the systems follow the data, remain nonpartisan, are professional, and implement best practices to meet the needs of every voter.” 

  • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a panel discussion on election administration and integrity hosted by the Center for Election Innovation and Research on July 11, 2022

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