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Our Take

Americans can and should trust in the integrity of the midterms—in large part because of the hard work of state and local election officials, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in the Fulcrum. 

Disinformation does not stop on Election Day; in fact, the most problematic narratives tend to take hold in the days following an election, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told Voice of America. 

If Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives, the United States should consider adjusting its aid to Ukraine in two ways: first, by passing a $100 billion security aid package during the lame duck period, and second, by prioritizing anti-corruption in the conditions for recovery aid, Senior Fellow Josh Rudolph and Ambassador Norman Eisen write in Just Security. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • US midterms: Kremlin-linked accounts did not conduct a large-scale messaging push around the US midterm elections, but their limited messaging bashed the Democratic Party and sought to undermine trust in the election’s outcome.  
  • Ukraine: Russian propagandists argued that the United States was not interested in resolving the conflict in Ukraine, claimed that Western states were tired of Ukraine’s president, and speculated about a US nuclear attack against Russia.
  • Imran Khan: The four most retweeted posts by monitored Russian accounts were about Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who survived a shooting at a political rally last week, with several state media commentators blaming the United States for the apparent assassination attempt. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • US midterms: Beijing-affiliated accounts criticized the amount of spending involved with this year’s campaign cycle, shared a cartoon suggesting that voting is meaningless, and amplified an assessment that the greatest threat to the United States is not Russia or China, but itself. 
  • US foreign policy: Chinese diplomatic and media accounts attacked the US embargo on Cuba, implied that the United States would interfere in Brazilian politics following Lula de Silva’s presidential victory, and accused the United States of militarism in its policies in East Asia. 
  • State visits: China-backed accounts highlighted German Chancellor Scholz’s visit to China, lauded Beijing’s “ironclad” friendship with Pakistan, and announced that a visit by Tanzanian officials to China had elevated the relationship between the two countries. 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

CISA chief says no evidence of compromise in any race: CISA Director Jen Easterly confirmed  that the 2022 midterm elections were secure, despite temporary technical glitches with printers in Maricopa County, Arizona that triggered baseless claims of fraud. Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson said,Elections are human-run processes; we expect mistakes to be made. The emphasis should be on ensuring those mistakes are identified and rectified quickly. In the case of Maricopa County, election officials were quick to provide options to voters to ensure their ballots would be counted. Unfortunately, the information environment in the state is such that what should have been a standard complaint of inconvenience at the polls immediately changed to accusations of something more nefarious. Despite this and the ongoing count in Arizona, we can feel confident in the results when the state’s races are called.” 

Russian oligarch claims interference in US elections: The day before the US midterm elections, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch who is under US sanctions for his efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, claimed he was interfering in the midterms and would target future elections. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told the Dispatch, While there is some evidence that troll farms operated by Prigozhin targeted American voters ahead of the midterm elections, his public admission should, in fact, be viewed as evidence that those efforts were largely unsuccessful. A basic rule of thumb of covert influence is that it operates best when it goes undetected, so any statement calling attention to interference efforts is likely a last-ditch effort to perform a cognitive hack—essentially, putting doubt into people’s minds about interference that did not occur. This fits the pattern we observed prior to the 2018 midterms, when Prigozhin’s IRA posted a statement on the eve of those elections claiming, without evidence, to have rigged the outcome of key elections. It’s simply about creating doubt in the target audience, and, in this case, about Prigozhin trying to gain influence in the Kremlin by exaggerating claims of success.”

China covertly funded 2019 Canadian election candidates: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that China is taking “aggressive” steps to subvert Canada’s democracy after Canadian intelligence disclosed that Beijing funded a clandestine network of at least 11 candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party in the 2019 elections and placed agents into parliamentary offices to influence policy. Research Analyst Etienne Soula said, “Chinese meddling in Canadian elections is but the latest in a growing series of actions demonstrating Beijing’s callous disregard for democratic nations’ rules and processes. The lack of decisive reactions from governments in targeted countries, as well as their failure to make the public aware of the scale of Chinese interference in democratic societies and institutions, is a vulnerability. By failing to impose sufficient costs on foreign authoritarian regimes whose actions subvert democracy around the Atlantic, our leaders are only emboldening those regimes and inviting more interference.”

In Case You Missed It  

  • Under the pressure of a Republican lawsuit, city officials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania voted to reverse an electoral procedure on Election Day, slowing the vote counting process. 
  • China became the top exporter to Russia after trade from the EU decreased by 43 percent as a result of sanctions targeting Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. 
  • Ahead of the midterm elections, Republican officials and candidates filed lawsuits to disqualify thousands of mail-in ballots in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin
  • The Ukrainian government seized ownership of five companies crucial for the defense sector that were formerly controlled by oligarchs, including top oil producer Ukrnafta. 
  • Greece will ban the sale of spyware following allegations that the government used the spyware Predator to surveil prominent politicians and journalists.
  • TrustCor, a mysterious offshore company and Internet authority that certifies website legitimacy, allegedly has connections to US intelligence contractors, raising concerns that it may cooperate with government information requests.

ASD in the News

Minor poll problems twisted into false US election claims., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in AP

Post-election misinformation targets Arizona, Pennsylvania. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in AP

Mishaps, distrust spur Election Day misinformation., Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in AP

Conspiracy Theorists Jump on Election Snafus to Sow Doubt., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bloomberg 

National Guard to Offer Midterms Cybersecurity Help., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Newsy 

US Confident in Integrity of Midterm Elections., Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in VOA

Yes, Your Vote is Secure with David Levine., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Dirty Moderate 

Elections Latest: Pennsylvanians Rush to Fix Undated Ballots., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bloomberg

Midterms: The conspiracy theorists who want to control elections., Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in BBC

Election Day: Brace for Misinformation and Post-Election Rumors., Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in GovTech 

Local Officials Confront ‘Daunting’ Flood of Election Rumors., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bloomberg Law 

The Future of America’s Election Security is Up to Us. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson 

Your Election Day cyber guide. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in the Washington Post 

US officials confirm cyberattacks on election websites in ‘handful’ of states. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Wesh 2

US Security Officials Warn Lone Actors Likely the Biggest Election Threat., Head of External Affairs Rachel Dean Wilson quoted in VOA News 

Election deniers in Minnesota are training some election judges., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in MPR News 

Nearly 1 in 5 Maryland voters already have cast ballots as early in-person voting ends and mail-in voting continues ahead of Election Day., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in The Baltimore Sun 

Gubernatorial candidates Wes Moore, Dan Cox make their final pitches as campaign season nears its close., Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in The Baltimore Sun 

Toward a Marshall Plan for Ukraine., Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph interviewed on Power Vertical 

Republican Congress Could Actually Boost U.S. Support for Ukraine., Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph quoted in Newsweek

Why are politicians dancing on TikTok? Senior Fellow for Emerging Technology Lindsay Gorman’s research cited in Deseret News

What foreign policy for Meloni’s Italy? Research Analyst Etienne Soula and Federico Castiglioni for ASD at GMF

Ukraine’s China Problem., China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros quoted in Newsweek 

خبير في شؤون نزاهة الانتخابات: العملية الانتخابية لغالبية الأميركيين جيدة جدا حتى الآن, (Election integrity expert: The electoral process for the majority of Americans has been very good so far). Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Alhurra

Quote of the Week

“I want to express my gratitude to the election workers and hundreds of thousands of Americans who served as poll workers yesterday… They serve on the front lines of our democracy, and they deserve our support, our admiration, and our respect.”

  • CISA Director Jen Easterly said in a statement on the security and resilience of the 2022 midterm elections.

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