Evolving International Elections Security Framework

The 2020 U.S. election and the events at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 will take years to fully unpack but they have made one thing immediately clear. Not only is election security paramount, but so is the perception of election security. The legitimacy of government and peacefulness of democratic societies require both. Thankfully, there have been efforts undergone to address this reality. This post’s purpose is to introduce the following paper, The Evolving International Election Security Framework, that summarizes these efforts, analyzes them, and provides a vision for how they can be improved.

This paper seeks to detail how the security of elections, both physically and digitally, is paramount to both the administration and perception of free and fair elections. It does this by laying out the larger international framework around securing elections. It utilizes the United States as a case study and places the Global Cyber Alliance Cybersecurity Toolkit for Elections within the framework. While the paper utilizes the United States as a case study, the framework is broader, comprising the following mutually reinforcing parts: the international laws/norms around election security, the government’s role in election security, civil society’s role, election officials’ role, and individuals’ role. It then details a vision for how this framework can mature into a sustainable international solution for election security following on the utilization of the framework to secure them and drawing upon lessons learned from the 2020 U.S. election.

This vision includes the need for society to grapple with the substantial threat of domestic disinformation campaigns and the ways in which the framework can build on its efforts thus far to help in this effort, as follows:

  • Messaging: The framework needs to build upon and improve its messaging so election officials can show their work more effectively. Through a committed effort to spread truthful election security information, the electorate can be made better aware of the true state of election security.
  • Identification: The framework should build on its efforts through improving capabilities for identification of disinformation campaigns at multiple layers of the framework. Efforts during the 2020 U.S. election are good first steps, but these efforts need to be expanded, improved, and emulated internationally. A committed effort for providing the electorate with the skills and tools to identify disinformation themselves needs to be built as well.
  • Accountability: The framework needs to develop concrete ways of holding those responsible for domestic disinformation campaigns accountable. This includes the need to include social media companies in the framework and the need for these companies to continually improve their election disinformation related policies and enforcement mechanisms. At the government layer, it also includes the need for accountability for government officials and those seeking to be government officials who conduct domestic election disinformation campaigns.

Finally, the paper concludes that the security of the 2020 U.S. election should provide hope for the capabilities of the emerging election security framework to address these new challenges and serve to ensure the sanctity of free and fair elections in the future.

Read the full paper here:  Evolving International Elections Security Framework

The author, Ryan Walsh, recently completed his MS in Cybersecurity Risk Management at Indiana University Bloomington. While completing his degree he also served as the IU Cyber Peace Intern with GCA where he researched cybersecurity issues with a focus on election security. You can find Ryan on LinkedIn.