Building resilient elections with Princeton University

2020-11-06

Princeton University’s Innovations for Successful Societies research centre, specialising in government reform and institution-building, is working on a new study around how democracies can defend elections against disinformation.

One part of the study focuses on how Sweden defended its 2018 election against the threat of foreign influence, and will cover best practices and lessons learned. It will be made publicly available, taught in graduate-level university courses, and shared with a network of election management authorities and other public servants worldwide.

Princeton University has reached out to 4C Strategies to draw on its experience working with elections on a local, national and international level. Edwin Sönnergren, Consultant and expert in election resilience at 4C Strategies, shares some insight on the topic.

Hi Edwin, why is it important to have a resilient election process?

A healthy electoral system, with minimal disruptions, is a basic function of democracy. Interruptions and mistakes can end up reducing confidence in the democratic system itself.

What can go wrong during an election?

For a number of reasons, different parts of an election could be threatened, such as voters’ willingness and ability to vote, the election process itself, or the integrity of the results.

Elections might be targeted directly, with attacks on polling stations, bomb threats, hacking, or disinformation campaigns. Human errors may also occur, along with unforeseen disasters such as fires or IT disruption. Interruptions may then be exploited by groups who wish to disrupt election activity.

How can you mitigate these issues?

Potential threats can be mitigated with resilient election processes that minimise risk and promote confidence. Confidence in the electoral system, and knowledge of how it works, can then serve to vaccinate against information influence.

While it is not possible to identify every risk to an election, having robust critical processes in place can help to prevent issues. Fundamentally, it is also important to have the capability to handle crises whey they occur, with a strong crisis management capability.

 


 

Building a Resilient Election

Risk Management

Identifying and mitigating risks to the election process

Business Continuity Management

Ensuring continuity for critical processes

Crisis Management

Building crisis management capability


 

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