Election schedules

Mutual Political Disarmament: How Two Reform Groups Overcame Differences to Create Fairer Districts in Colorado, 2015–2021

Author
Al Vanderklipp
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Translations
Abstract

In Colorado, as in most US states, politicians long controlled the process of drawing federal- and state-level legislative districts and manipulated district boundaries to secure political advantage. Dismayed by the tug-of-war that the process unleashed during the 2001 and 2011 redistricting cycles, in March 2015 a bipartisan group of former legislators assembled a coalition to promote adoption of an independent citizen redistricting commission. The coalition could pursue two routes to enactment: either it could get its proposal onto the ballot through Colorado’s citizen initiative process, or it could try to win support in both chambers of the state legislature. Both routes were difficult, and success depended on offering a model that would appeal to political heavyweights, advocacy groups, both major parties, and a growing contingent of politically independent voters. The Democratic Party was all but certain to control the next redistricting process, and it would not give up that advantage without a fight. To succeed, Fair Districts Colorado would have to cooperate and compromise with the party’s progressive wing. After collaborating with progressives to create a shared proposal and after launching a statewide communications campaign, well-connected coalition members were able to convince all members of both of the legislative chambers to put two constitutional amendments for an independent redistricting process in front of voters, who approved them in a landslide in 2018. In 2021, the inaugural Colorado Independent Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Commissions convened and created maps that scored well on metrics of competitiveness and representation despite having to work under challenging time constraints as well as pandemic-related logistical complications.

Alexander Vanderklipp drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Colorado from January to April 2024.

‘Reconciling The Impossible’: South Africa’s Government of National Unity, 1994-1996

Author
Leon Schreiber
Country of Reform
Abstract

In April 1994, after a decades-long struggle for democracy and more than three years of arduous peace negotiations, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress formed a power-sharing government with its rivals: the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party. It was vital to overcome lingering distrust between the three groups, which had been locked in a violent conflict. Based on the outcome of an election and in accordance with an interim constitution adopted the year before, political leaders apportioned cabinet posts and appointed ministers from all three parties to the new government. They then tried to design practices conducive to governing well, and they introduced innovations that became models for other countries. When policy disputes arose, they set up ad hoc committees to find common ground, or they sought venues outside the cabinet to adjudicate the disagreements. Despite the National Party’s withdrawal from the power-sharing cabinet in mid 1996, South Africa’s Government of National Unity oversaw the creation of a historic new constitution, restructured the country’s legal system and public service, and implemented a raft of social programs aimed at undoing the injustices of apartheid.

 

Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, in September and October 2016. Case published December 2016. 

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased these challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations.

The United States Institute of Peace funded the development of this case study.

 

A Year of Calm: Tunisia's Independent Government, 2014–2015

Author
Robert Joyce
Country of Reform
Abstract

In August 2013, two and a half years after a citizen uprising ousted a long-ruling dictator, Tunisia was at a tipping point. Following the assassination of a secularist politician—the second such killing that year—opposition parties demanded the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly and the resignation of the interim government, a coalition led by the Islamist Ennahda party. Work on a new constitution stopped amid dueling street protests between the two blocs. In October, four civil society organizations intervened and mediated political talks between the two sides. Under the terms of the resulting deal, the assembly agreed to resume its work and to appoint a new prime minister to run the government. They chose a compromise candidate, Mehdi Jomaa, an incumbent minister of industry with proven managerial experience and no known political allegiances. Jomaa and his cabinet of businesspeople, civil servants, professors, and judges led the country to peaceful, credible elections in October 2014. His government walked a narrow line as it tried to lead government operations without an electoral mandate and to bridge the interests of the civil society mediators, Ennahda, and the secular parties. By the time he left power, Jomaa was one of the country’s most popular leaders, and in 2015 the civil society leaders who had mediated the political talks won the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in crafting Tunisia’s distinctive effort to navigate tensions and avoid political violence.

Robert Joyce drafted this case based on interviews conducted in Tunis, Tunisia, in February 2016. Case published in March 2016.

Making Power Sharing Work: Kenya’s Grand Coalition Cabinet, 2008–2013

Author
Leon Schreiber
Country of Reform
Abstract

Following Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election, fighting broke out between supporters of incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Triggered by the announcement that Kibaki had retained the presidency, the violence ultimately claimed more than 1,200 lives and displaced 350,000 people. A February 2008 power-sharing agreement between the two leaders helped restore order, but finding a way to govern together in a new unity cabinet posed a daunting challenge. Under the terms negotiated, the country would have both a president and a prime minister until either the dissolution of parliament, a formal withdrawal by either party from the agreement, or the passage of a referendum on a new constitution. The agreement further stipulated that each party would have half the ministerial portfolios. Leaders from the cabinet secretariat and the new prime minister’s office worked to forge policy consensus, coordinate, and encourage ministries to focus on implementation. The leaders introduced a new interagency committee system, teamed ministers of one party with deputy ministers from the other, clarified practices for preparing policy documents, and introduced performance contracts. Independent monitoring, an internationally mediated dialogue to help resolve disputes, and avenues for back- channel communication encouraged compromise between the two sides and eased tensions when discord threatened to derail the work of the executive. Despite the odds firmly stacked against it, Kenya’s Grand Coalition cabinet was largely able to govern according to a unified policy agenda. As a result, the coalition managed to implement some of the important reforms stipulated under the power-sharing deal, including the adoption of a new constitution. However, the level of political corruption remained high.

 

Leon Schreiber drafted this case based on interviews conducted in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2015. Case published March 2016.

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased these challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations.

Preparing to Draft a New Social Contract: Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly Election, 2011

Author
Daniel Tavana
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections faced a formidable task in May 2011. The newly created commission had five months to organize and implement elections for a National Constituent Assembly that would rewrite the Tunisian constitution. Commissioners moved quickly to build capacity and restore public faith in elections. The commission navigated the pressures of a compressed electoral calendar, an agitated electorate, and skepticism of the transitional government. The story of the group’s efforts to manage a successful election offers insight into how an electoral commission can take advantage of relationships with political parties, government, and the public to overcome inexperience in volatile circumstances. This case study focuses on commission staffing and recruitment, the creation of regional subsidiary bodies, and voter registration.

Frances Johnson-Allison (formerly Johnson-Morris)

Ref Batch
D
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
13
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Nealin Parker
Name
Frances Johnson-Allison (formerly Johnson-Morris)
Interviewee's Position
2008 Interview, Former Chairwoman
Interviewee's Organization
National Election Commission of Liberia
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Liberian
Town/City
Monrovia
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
Yes
Abstract
Frances Johnson-Morris describes her involvement in the 2005 Liberian general elections as the chairwoman of the National Election Commission (NEC).  She provides insight into the decision to overhaul and restructure the old Elections Commission and shares the challenges faced by the NEC in ensuring the credibility of the elections. Johnson-Morris details the problem of working in an election environment involving multiple international stakeholders. Describing the process of scheduling the elections, she also stresses the importance of establishing and adhering to a strict timeline. She further outlines how the credibility of the NEC was bolstered by its independence from the government and the transparency of the entire election process. Johnson-Morris goes on to describe the particular successes of the election, citing the overwhelming turnout of voters as an example.  She also discusses the recruitment of the election staff and comments on training, monitoring and payment strategies.  She further identifies the provision of adequate resources as crucial to the success of any election. She concludes by emphasizing the importance of election planning and the need for those involved in electoral decision making to ensure that both their character and actions remain above reproach. 
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, Frances Johnson-Morris was Liberia's minister of commerce and industry, having taken office in 2007. She served as the chairwoman of the National Elections Commission in Monrovia during the 2005 elections.  A lawyer by profession, Johnson-Morris was appointed as minister of justice in 2006, simultaneously holding the office of attorney  general.  In 1997, she was also the chief justice of the Supreme Court.  She was the national director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Liberia from 2004 to 2005.  She was also a resident circuit judge from 1989-1997. Johnson-Morris holds a degree in law from the Louis Arthur Grimmes School of Law, Monrovia, as well as a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Liberia, Monrovia.

Full Audio File Size
50 MB
Full Audio Title
Frances Johnson-Morris - Full Interview

Jorge Guzman

Ref Batch
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

Bhojraj Pokharel

Ref Batch
ZH
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
3
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Rushda Majeed
Name
Bhojraj Pokharel
Interviewee's Position
Chief Elections Commissioner
Interviewee's Organization
Election Commission of Nepal
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Nepal
Town/City
Kathmandu
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Bhojraj Pokharel, who served as Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of Nepal between 2006 and 2008, speaks about his experiences in developing procedures for, and overseeing the conduct of, the historic 2008 national elections. Pokharel, who had a long career in public service in Nepal prior to being appointed Chief Election Commissioner, explains in this interview that at the time of his appointment, “there was…nothing in place technically, legally or conceptually.” Only the most basic parameters as to how the elections were to be conducted were set forth in Nepal’s governing constitution; every other detail was left to Pokharel, and Nepal’s government, to resolve. At the time of Pokharel’s appointment, the constitutionally-mandated election day was only months away and the challenges were enormous. For example,  before any planning could occur, an interim parliament had to pass laws giving basic guidance as to election procedures. Yet the political leaders were unable to reach timely agreements on important points in the legislation. Also immediate, and critical, was the need to bring the Maoists, who had been actively involved in civil strife for the previous ten years and who had never before been involved in conventional politics, into the election process. Pokharel managed to persuade the Maoists to participate fully in the election process, and to stay involved through a host of challenges that, at many points, threatened to make any sort of representative election impossible. Next, the methodology of preparing voter lists had to be decided upon, and eligibility determined. Staff willing to work in remote, strife-torn areas had to be found and trained, and their security assured. Ballot forms and voter education materials had to be developed and printed. Once printed, these materials had to be disseminated, so reliable means of transporting them to, and ensuring their integrity in, remote, strife-torn areas and areas that lacked electricity, transport, and other essentials had to be arranged. Pokharel describes his frustrations as these challenges prevented the conduct of the election on the first, constitutionally-mandated date in June 2007, and as still more challenges forced another postponement of the rescheduled date in November of that year. At one point, he recalls, he actually prepared his resignation, though ultimately he chose to withdraw it. Finally, he describes his pride, and the pride of the Nepalese people, as the election ultimately occurs in 2008, in an atmosphere largely free of violence and other disruptions.

Case Study: Managing the Political and Practical: Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections, 2006-2008

Profile

Bhojraj Pokharel was the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of Nepal between 2006 and 2008. In this capacity, he developed procedures for, and oversaw the conduct of, the historic 2008 elections for the national Constituent Assembly. Prior to becoming Chief Election Commissioner, he held various government posts including at Nepal’s ministries of health, home affairs and local government. After the votes were counted, Pokharel resigned his position and pursued graduate study at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2010, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Pokharel to a panel charged with monitoring self-determination referenda for Southern Sudan and the Abyei area, making Pokharel the first Nepali to hold such a high ranking position for the United Nations.

Full Audio Title
Audio Available Upon Request

Nyimbi Odero

Ref Batch
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

Organizing the First Post-Apartheid Election, South Africa, 1994

Author
Amy Mawson
Country of Reform
Internal Notes
1.4.13 corrected ANC name in text.
Abstract

South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission faced a daunting task in January 1994.  The newly established body had less than four months to organize and implement the country's first fully inclusive democratic elections.  The stakes were high.  A successful vote would signal a new beginning for the nation after the apartheid era.  Failure could mean civil war.  Choosing suitable polling sites, dealing with parties' distrust, reaching alienated and possibly hostile communities,  addressing potential spoiler issues and remedying shortages of electoral materials posed formidable challenges.  The commission's difficulties snowballed.  In the end, however, all parties accepted the election results and the Government of National Unity went ahead as planned.  The elections offer an example of how an electoral commission can sustain political will-of parties and the public-to overcome administrative shortcomings in extremely sensitive circumstances.  The case study discusses location of polling stations, temporary polling facilities, candidate access, ballots and ballot counting.

Amy Mawson drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa, in February 2010. To learn more about the second post-apartheid elections in South Africa, see "Using Conflict Management Panels to Resolve Tension in the Second Post-Apartheid Election." 

Associated Interview(s):  Johann Kriegler, Howard Sackstein, Benedict van der Ross