electoral management body

Enhancing Fairness: Wisconsin Experiments with Nonpartisan Election Administration, 2001 – 2016

Author
Daniel Dennehy
Focus Area(s)
Core Challenge
Country of Reform
Abstract

In the wake of a 2001 scandal over the use of government employees to assist political campaigns, public interest groups in the US state of Wisconsin pushed for reform of the state ethics and elections boards, which had been slow to respond to complaints about misuse of resources and had declined to refer suspected lawbreakers for prosecution. During the 2002 election period, gubernatorial candidates of both main parties joined the call to insulate election administration from partisan pressure. Five years of negotiation came to fruition in 2007, when the state senate and assembly voted to create a consolidated election and ethics agency directed by retired judges. The first nonpartisan election administration authority of its type in the United States, the new agency, called the Government Accountability Board, replaced a system that had vested governance of elections in a commission made up of members of both major parties. But eight years later, political alignments shifted. Arguing that the board had overreached in its handling of certain sensitive cases, state legislators in 2015 voted to shutter the institution and reverted to the pre-2007 system run by representatives of the two major political parties. This case illuminates both the circumstances that can drive politicians to introduce a nonpartisan election management system and the challenges associated with the design, implementation, and sustainability of the approach. (Note that the lead reformer in this case, Michael G. Ellis, died in 2018.)  

Daniel Dennehy and staff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in the United States from August through November 2022. Case published February 2023.

Defending the Vote: Estonia Creates a Network to Combat Disinformation, 2016–2020

Author
Tyler McBrien
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Troubled by reports of disinformation and fake news in the United States and with regard to the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum vote, Estonia’s State Electoral Office in 2016 created an interagency task force to combat the influence of false messaging on its democratic process. To guide its work, the small staff of the State Electoral Office adopted a network approach by engaging partners from other government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, social media companies, and the press to identify and monitor disinformation and to work with the press to correct false statements. It also developed a curriculum that would help high school students improve their ability to separate fact from fiction. The collaboration largely succeeded in checking foreign interference. However, considerations involving free speech and censorship hobbled the task force’s efforts to restrain disinformation spread by domestic political parties and their supporters. This case illuminates how an electoral management body with limited staff capacity and a restricted mandate addressed a societywide disinformation challenge.

 

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in September and October 2020. Case published December 2020.

A Path to Peace: Liberia's First Post-War Elections, 2004-2005

Author
Michael Scharff
Country of Reform
Abstract
In 2005, Liberia held its first post-conflict elections, two years after a peace agreement ended 14 years of civil war. Navigating treacherous political waters and facing both time constraints and citizen skepticism, Frances Johnson-Morris, chairwoman of the newly installed National Elections Commission, oversaw a largely peaceful electoral process that ushered in a new legislature and president. A former Supreme Court chief justice, she knew that failure to hold credible elections could plunge the peace process into disarray and send the country back into conflict. To dampen the risk of violence, Johnson-Morris prioritized building citizens’ trust in the commission and took steps to ensure the elections were as inclusive as possible. She established a vetting process to hire qualified staff for the commission and conducted a thorough update of the voter registry that ensured people who lacked standard identification papers could still sign up to vote. Johnson-Morris also oversaw the design of a consultation committee that put political party representatives and elections commission staff in one room, where they could share important messages and formulate unified policy. Ordinary Liberians and independent observers expressed satisfaction with the free, fair and peaceful conduct of the elections.  
 
Michael Scharff drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia, in July 2011 and using interviews conducted by Nealin Parker in August 2008. Case published October 2011.
 
Associated Interview(s):  Thomas Du, Senesee Geso Freeman

Policing Election Day: Vulnerability Mapping in India, 2006-2009

Author
Michael Scharff
Country of Reform
Abstract
During India’s 2009 election, there were not enough uniformed personnel to guard every one of the country’s 828,000 polling places or to keep the peace during the campaign period. The Election Commission of India introduced “vulnerability mapping” to help election officials decide where to deploy the police and paramilitary personnel ahead of polling day. The state of West Bengal piloted the new tactic. Intense political competition and a Maoist insurgency in some parts of the state meant West Bengal was more susceptible to trouble than many other places in the country. Using general guidelines drawn up by the commission, the head election official for West Bengal, Debashis Sen, classified polling stations by their level of sensitivity. These rankings helped election officials decide where to position the police and paramilitary. The commission also instructed the police to execute existing arrest warrants and to keep close tabs on likely offenders. Election officials in West Bengal said the mapping helped dampen violence and increase voter turnout on election day.
 

Michael Scharff drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in New Delhi and Kolkata, India, in November 2010. Case published August 2011.

Associated Interview(s):  S.K. Mendiratta, Alok Shukla

George Sarpong

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E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
2
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
George Sarpong
Interviewee's Position
Executive Secretary
Interviewee's Organization
National Media Commission, Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

George Sarpong explains the role of the National Media Commission in Ghana, and the role the media plays in elections in Ghana.  He goes into detail about the way media is employed by the political parties and the electoral management body, distinguishing between state-owned media and privately owned media in this process.  He also explains the role of the media in educating the public in terms of voter registration and how the media has been used to reach out to marginalized populations.  He explains how the media commission regulates negative campaigning, and he discusses the overall role of the commission.  Finally, he describes how election monitors are used and what their goals are in monitoring elections.
 
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, George Sarpong was the executive secretary of the National Media Commission in Ghana.  His extensive experience included involvement with media issues relating to elections through his capacity as the executive director of the Youth Network for Human Rights and Democracy, working with youth to increase capacity to participate in democratic discourse, and on issues to prevent violence in elections.  He served as a member of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, coordinating media activities, and consulted regularly on media, media monitoring, and governance issues for multiple organizations.  He also was involved in elections in Sierra Leona, Cameroon and Liberia.  

Full Audio File Size
44 MB
Full Audio Title
George Sarpong - Full Interview

Kwesi Jonah

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E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
1
Critical Tasks
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Kwesi Jonah
Interviewee's Position
Research Fellow
Interviewee's Organization
Institute for Democratic Governance
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
Kwesi Jonah discusses electoral politics and administration in Ghana. He discusses the choice of electoral system in Ghana, and its relevance to the political climate and culture. He discusses more specifically electoral law and the role of the Election Commission of Ghana (EC) and the judiciary in ensuring fair elections in Ghana. He discusses measures to ensure independence of the EC, including budgetary independence, transparency, media relations, diversity and the role of political parties as advisory, but not decision-making, adjuncts to the EC. Jonah further reflects upon the elections administration in Ghana, speaking about voter registration, voter education, voter identification, monitoring, fraud-prevention and dispute resolution. He reflects upon the role of international donors, Ghanaian nongovernmental organizations and the media in the electoral process. Finally, he considers the challenges faced by Ghana, including election violence, rejected ballots due to insufficient voter education, geographic challenges, bureaucratic hurdles, the representation of minorities, voter fraud and the enforcement of electoral laws.
Profile

At the time of the interview, Kwesi Jonah, who holds a doctoral degree, was head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Legon, and was also a research fellow at the Institute for Democratic Governance in Accra, Ghana. He has worked on several other projects related to governance.

Full Audio File Size
99 MB
Full Audio Title
Kwesi Jonah -Full Interview

Thomas Du

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D
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
1
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Nealin Parker
Name
Thomas Du
Interviewee's Position
Senior Program Officer
Interviewee's Organization
National Democratic Institute, Liberia
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Liberian
Town/City
Monrovia
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
Thomas Du, senior program officer at the National Democratic Institute in Liberia, explains his organization’s charge to facilitate the country’s transition to democracy by working closely with civil society and by engaging constructively with the government. Du recounts the history of party politics in Liberia, highlighting the racial divisions between dark-skinned natives and lighter-skinned repatriated American settlers, long periods of military rule and rigged elections. Parties proliferated as vehicles for individuals to attain power rather than on ideological grounds while significant portions of the population like youth, illiterates, and unskilled workers were neglected. Du explains the National Election Commission’s choice to be inclusive rather than strict in enforcing all electoral rules that would bar some people and parties from the process. He discusses the weak role of the media in the country and the difficulty of getting appropriate materials to illiterate voters. He touches on some different motivations that may have affected voters’ choices in the 2005 election as they determined what kind of leader they wanted to steer them through the democratic transition safely. Du emphasizes the importance of opening up the process by allowing multiple parties and media sources access to the political arena, while avoiding crowding the field with too many parties or news sources. He endorses developing and implementing rules for interparty competition, defining the roles of different stakeholders, and finding a way for parties to effectively disseminate their ideas to voters. Du analyzes election monitoring in the 2005 election and champions domestic monitoring of elections throughout the full election cycle to establish ownership of the process.  Looking toward future elections, he calls for the involvement of youth and women in civic culture and the cultivation of future leaders.
 
Profile
At the time of this interview, Thomas Du was the senior program officer at the National Democratic Institute in Liberia. His work at the institute supported the development of civil service infrastructure to assist in building democratic institutions in Liberia. He also studied the successes and failures of these techniques as a means of improvement.
Full Audio File Size
81 MB
Full Audio Title
Thomas Du - Full Interview

Jorge Guzman

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H
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
4
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Nealin Parker
Name
Jorge Guzman
Interviewee's Position
Program Manager
Interviewee's Organization
Program Management Unit, UNDP in Sierra Leone
Language
English
Place (Building/Street)
United Nations Program Management Unit
Town/City
Freetown
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

 Jorge Guzman explains the role of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Program Management Unit (PMU) in the 2007 and 2008 elections in Sierra Leone.  He discusses how to coordinate efforts and negotiate competing requests from donors and national institutions while still operating within the constraints imposed by the UNDP framework.  He describes how tension was minimized through negotiations and steering committee meetings with the diplomatic corps and the government.  He explains how the final election date was kept stable, as constantly changing elements like procurement and recruitment procedures affected timelines.  He describes how the National Election Committee was restructured, with positions being chosen based on merit through a detailed selection process.  He also explains how the transparency and efficiency of the NEC was established through the formation of explicit procedures and guidelines and the publishing of the results of election procedures like registration, the nomination of candidates, and the counting and tallying of votes. He finishes with a discussion of training a diverse group of people, emphasizing the importance of considering context and fostering unity to successfully implement democracy on a day-to-day basis.   

 

Profile

At the time of this interview, Jorge Guzman was the program manager of the Program Management Unit for the UNDP in Sierra Leone. He has extensive experience in public relations and administration issues related to elections, having worked with the UN in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Nigeria, and Pakistan. He has been a BRIDGE facilitator, and part of the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network. 

Full Audio File Size
84 MB
Full Audio Title
Jorge Guzman Interview

Abubakarr Koroma

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H
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
8
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Nealin Parker
Name
Abubakarr Koroma
Place (Building/Street)
National Elections Commission
Town/City
Freetown
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Abubakarr Koroma explains the role of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in 2008 local government elections in Sierra Leone.  Koroma offers insight into the process of recruiting staff members to fill NEC officer posts, detailing the measures taken toward attaining nonpartisan recruitment. He explains how United Nations officers worked alongside local officers to ensure that all aspects of the election were adequately staffed, from the early stages of registration through polling day. He discusses the commission’s collaboration with civil society organizations in monitoring trained staff members, as well as the role of the police in protecting workers’ safety during campaigning and at the polls.  He details the widespread use of radio and cellphones by both the NEC and the political parties during the campaign period in voter education.  He also explains how third-party mediation and public condemnation of deviant behavior effectively dealt with election disputes.  Finally, he addresses the steps taken by the NEC and other organizations to reach out to marginalized voters such as women and rural residents, and sheds light on what the elections may mean for the development of democracy in Sierra Leone.   

Profile

At the time of this interview Abubakarr Koroma was the senior elections officer in southern Sierra Leone as well as a district electoral officer for Bo district.  He previously served as an assistant elections officer in Tonkolili in northern Sierra Leone and a district electoral officer in the Pujehun region of the country.  Through these positions he gained extensive experience working on staff recruitment and training as well as maintaining election security and resolving election disputes.  He was involved in the production of a voter education manual for the 2008 local government elections, regularly appeared on radio talk shows aimed at educating voters, and served as coordinator of the Independent Monitoring Team. In 2010, he organized a training session on electoral administration and communication skills at the Institute of Electoral Administration and Civic Education in Freetown. 

Full Audio File Size
18 MB
Full Audio Title
Abubakarr Koroma Interview

Nyimbi Odero

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X
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
1
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Gabriel Kuris
Name
Nyimbi Odero
Interviewee's Position
Technical Consultant
Interviewee's Organization
INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission)
Language
English
Town/City
Abuja
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
In this interview, Nyimbi Odero explains the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission in providing a certified voters’ register for the 2011 elections in Nigeria.  He describes his role in designing and obtaining the necessary equipment to run the election through the mechanism of a reverse vickery auction designed to improve transparency.  He details the process by which the INEC redesigned the power system to run on extended lithium ferrous phosphate batteries to increase efficiency.  He explains how he led the INEC in taking advantage of existing open source software and altering it to fit the Nigerian context.  He elaborates on how this effort to be cost efficient was initially met with a backlash from companies that had traditionally profited from the elections.  Odero describes how his team installed a patching infrastructure to facilitate the process of installing software on a large number of computers that were used for the voter registration, and explains how culturally embedded meanings of the word ‘patch’ caused Nigerians to be skeptical of the new technology.  He discusses how severe time constraints forced the INEC to train people and improvise with equipment throughout the registration process rather than before it began.   Odero touches on the key role that Nigerian youth played throughout the process.  He explains how the INEC used social media to involve the Nigerian electorate, and details the widespread use of mobile phones to improve security and information sharing.  He concludes by emphasizing the potential of open source software to improve the transparency and efficiency of democratic elections across the African continent. 
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, Nyimbi Odero was a consultant for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria.  A native to Kenya, Odero has extensive experience as a software, Internet, and network entrepreneur with various startups in Africa.  Prior to joining INEC as an electoral assistant, he worked as the Office Lead for English-speaking West Africa at Google.  In that role, he created programs, initiatives and projects to increase the number of Internet users in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia.  He has experience engaging the government as well as the public and private sector regarding policies regulating the competitiveness and accessibility of the Internet.  Odero has a special interest in education, and he initiated the Google University Access Programme, which delivers bandwidth, wireless networks and inexpensive computing devices to university students and communities.  

Full Audio File Size
68 MB
Full Audio Title
Nyimbi Odero - Full Interview