Vote counting

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.

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.

Compromise and Trust-Building After Civil War: Elections Administration in Mozambique, 1994

Author
Amy Mawson
Country of Reform
Abstract
Mozambique’s first multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in October 1994 followed 16 years of civil war. Because neither side had won the conflict, the stakes of the contest were high. Mutual distrust characterized the run-up to the vote. A new electoral law in early 1994 created a multiparty election commission that forced the parties to work together on overcoming the many operational challenges of running elections in a sprawling country severely damaged by war. The commission succeeded in damping the risks of violence that are often associated with competitive elections in such situations, building consensus among members of different political parties. When the election results were announced, all parties accepted them. However, Mozambique struggled after 1994 to overcome the legacy of the institutional arrangements forged during the peace process. The country’s problems demonstrate the challenges that post-conflict countries face in designing processes and procedures to meet the immediate goal of maintaining peace while serving the longer-term aim of developing mature democratic institutions. This memo examines the 1994 elections and the impact that the initial design of the election commission had on subsequent elections. 
 
Amy Mawson drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Maputo, Mozambique, in January 2010. Case published October 2010.
 
Associated Interview(s):  Miguel de Brito, Ismael Valigy

Nurturing Democracy in the Horn of Africa: Somaliland's First Elections, 2002-2005

Author
Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam
Country of Reform
Abstract
A decade after the former British protectorate of Somaliland severed ties with the rest of Somalia and declared independence, the fledgling state took the next steps toward democracy by holding direct elections. This transition occurred over the course of four years and three elections, during which the people of Somaliland elected district councils in 2002, a president and vice president in 2003, and a parliament in 2005. Somaliland’s democratic elections, the first in the Horn of Africa since 1969, were landmark achievements, as traditional social and political mechanisms legitimized the results and reinforced stability in the aftermath. The inexperienced and under-resourced National Electoral Commission successfully navigated the development of political parties, avoided the potential for violence when the margin of victory in the presidential election was only 80 votes, and managed an improved parliamentary election by introducing innovations that made the electoral process operate more smoothly. By avoiding violence and building consensus for peaceful, democratic transitions, Somaliland’s first elections highlighted a mix of traditional and democratic innovations conducted in a resource-poor environment.
 
Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam drafted this policy note on the basis of interviews conducted in Somaliland during October 2010. For a detailed look at the establishment of civilian government in Somaliland from 1991 to 2001, see the companion case study, “Navigating a Broken Transition to Civilian Rule.”
 
Associated Interview(s):  Adan Yusuf Abokor, Shukri Ismail, Mohamed Fadal

Cooling Ethnic Conflict Over a Heated Election: Guyana, 2001-2006

Author
Varanya Chaubey, Amy Mawson, Gabriel Kuris
Country of Reform
Abstract
On 28 August 2006, Guyana held its most peaceful election in decades. In previous polls, inefficiencies in the electoral process had fueled rumors of electoral fraud by the ruling party, inflaming violent tensions between Guyana’s two main ethnic groups, the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese. Ethnicity and party affiliation had long been linked in Guyanese politics. In the run-up to the 2006 vote, the elections commission, international donors and civil society groups worked together to thwart election-related violence. The commission rebuilt trust in the voter registry, decentralized administrative processes, improved field communications and better coordinated security plans. Recognizing the media’s role in fomenting violence, the commission established a Media Monitoring Unit and urged media outlets to cooperate to draft and abide by a new voluntary code of conduct. At the same time, civil society groups instituted a series of peace-building initiatives that included high-level dialogues and grassroots forums. These efforts helped ensure a free and fair election, with results accepted by all parties. Although violence reemerged in 2008, these reforms provided a foundation for renewed counter-efforts before the 2011 elections. This case offers insights to reformers seeking to break the cycle of electoral violence in ethnically divided societies.  
 

Varanya Chaubey drafted this case study with the help of Amy Mawson and Gabriel Kuris on the basis of interviews conducted in Georgetown, Guyana, in May 2009. Case published September 2011.

Associated Interview(s):  Robin Campbell,  Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Calvin Benn, Gocool Boodoo, Remington Eastman, Rupert Roopnaraine, Steve Surujbally

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

Toward a Second Independence: Repairing Nigeria's Electoral Commission, 2010-2011

Author
Gabriel Kuris
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

After three flawed national elections, the government of Nigeria faced strong pressure to reform its electoral commission before the 2011 vote. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Attahiru Jega, a university vice chancellor with a civil society background, to chair the commission and lead reforms. With too little time to overhaul the commission, Jega brought in a small team of trusted advisers and drew upon a support network of civil society groups to extend the commission’s reach. To build credibility, he promoted transparency both within the commission and toward the public, tapped new sources of publicly trusted election workers, created a new voter registry, reformed balloting procedures, and improved cooperation with political parties and government agencies. Despite logistical problems and an outbreak of post-election violence, observers validated the elections as the freest and fairest in Nigerian history.

 
Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study based on interviews he and Rahmane Idrissa conducted in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos, and Zaria, Nigeria, in September and October 2011, and on an interview Laura Bacon conducted in Washington in November 2012. Case published December 2012. For a closer look at technical innovations in Nigeria’s 2011 elections, particularly in electronic voter registration and the use of social media, see “Rebooting the System: Technological Reforms in Nigerian Elections, 2010-2011."
 
Associated Interview(s):  Attahiru Jega

Restoring Credibility to Mexico's Electoral Process, 2006-2012 (Disponible en español)

Author
Rachel Jackson
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Translations
Internal Notes
JRG 6/24/2014
Abstract
Following a close and highly contested 2006 presidential race, Mexico faced a crisis of credibility in the management of its elections. An opposition party threatened not to recognize the government as legitimate, citing fraud and unfair treatment by broadcast media during the campaign. Legislators in Mexico’s three largest political parties parlayed the crisis into an opportunity to address long-standing problems in the country’s electoral process. They passed a reform package that prohibited the purchase of radio and television campaign advertisements and gave political parties access to free airtime, thereby cutting into the profits of Mexico’s powerful broadcast industry. In the wake of the 2006 crisis, Leonardo Valdés Zurita, president of the Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute), and the institute’s General Council had to implement the legislative reforms and restore public trust in the electoral management body itself. To do so, they had to meet both the technical challenge of monitoring broadcast signals across the country and the political challenge of winning compliance from some of Mexico’s most powerful corporations.
 
Rachel Jackson drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Mexico City, in July 2013. This ISS case study was made possible by support and collaboration from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. Case published June 2014.


RESTAURACIÓN DE LA CREDIBILIDAD EN EL PROCESO ELECTORAL MEXICANO, 2006–2012

SINOPSIS: Tras la reñida y muy disputada campaña presidencial de 2006, México enfrentó una crisis de credibilidad en la administración de sus elecciones. Un partido de la oposición amenazó con no reconocer la legitimidad del gobierno, alegando fraude y un trato injusto por parte de los medios de radiodifusión durante la campaña. Los legisladores de los tres partidos políticos más importantes de México convirtieron la crisis en una oportunidad para abordar problemas de larga data en el proceso electoral del país. Aprobaron un paquete de reforma según el cual se prohibió la compra de anuncios de campaña en radio y televisión y se posibilitó que los partidos políticos accedieran a tiempo de transmisión gratuito, lo que recortó las ganancias de la poderosa industria de radiodifusión mexicana. A raíz de la crisis de 2006, el presidente del Instituto Federal Electoral, Leonardo Valdés Zurita, y el Consejo General de dicha institución se vieron obligados a implementar reformas legislativas a fin de restaurar la confianza política en el organismo de gestión electoral. Para lograr esto, debieron afrontar el reto técnico de supervisar las señales de radiodifusión en todo el país, así como el reto político de obtener la conformidad por parte de una de las corporaciones más poderosas de México.

Rachel Jackson elaboró este estudio de caso sobre la base de entrevistas realizadas en la Ciudad de México en julio de 2013. Este estudio de caso del programa Innovaciones para Sociedades Exitosas (Innovations for Successful Societies, ISS) fue posible gracias al apoyo y a la colaboración del Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. El caso se publicó en junio de 2014.

Vincent Crabbe

Ref Batch
E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
10
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Vincent Crabbe
Interviewee's Position
Co-Chairman
Interviewee's Organization
Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

In this interview, Vincent Crabbe discusses his experience confronting the many challenges of ensuring transparency in the conduct of elections. One of the chief obstacles to transparent elections is the compilation of a reliable voter registry. For instance, in the absence of birth certificates and other forms of identification, he notes the difficulty of ascertaining whether a voter is of legal voting age. Other obstacles to compiling the lists include the fact that multiple individuals have the same name. Crabbe explains key reforms to Ghana’s elections process that he believes are transferrable to other countries, including see-through ballot boxes and counting ballots at polling stations to reduce the likelihood of tampering with while en route to counting centers. Finally, Crabbe sheds light on what he believes are the key attributes required for an electoral commissioner.   

Case Study:  Keeping the Peace in a Tense Election: Ghana, 2008

Profile

At the time of this interview, Vincent Crabbe was the co-chairman of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, which monitored all aspects of public elections in Ghana. Decades earlier, Crabbe established the country’s Electoral Commission. In 1968, he was appointed interim electoral commissioner. In this role, he oversaw the 1969 democratic elections that brought an end to military rule. Crabbe's status as interim electoral commissioner was equivalent to that of a judge on the Court of Appeals. He also served as the chairman of the Constituent Assembly for the drafting of Ghana's 1979 Constitution, as parliamentary counsel and constitutional adviser to the Ugandan government, and as director of the Commonwealth Secretariat Scheme for Legislative Draftsmen for the West, East, Southern and Central Africa Regions and the Caribbean Region. He also drafted the Guiding Principles for UNESCO in the field of Education, Scientific and Cultural Exchanges. He taught at the International Law Development Centre in Rome, Italy, and was a professor of legislative drafting at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

Full Audio File Size
82 MB
Full Audio Title
Vincet Crabbe - Full Interview

Ismael Valigy

Ref Batch
N
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
10
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Amy Mawson
Name
Ismael Valigy
Interviewee's Position
Member
Interviewee's Organization
Mozambique's Central Election Commission, 1994
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Mozambican
Town/City
Maputo
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
Ismael Valigy talks about his role on Mozambique’s election commission in 1994, when he helped oversee the country’s first free and fair elections after a long civil war.  He begins by providing background information on the challenges that negotiators faced in 1993 while drafting the country’s new electoral law.  He goes on to discuss the pivotal role played by the election commission’s chairman, Brazao Mazula, who managed to build consensus among political adversaries within the commission when it began operating in 1994.  Valigy explains in detail the sequencing of different parts of the electoral process, and how discussions within the election commission evolved.  He talks about some of the obstacles the commission encountered, including difficulties accessing rural areas and a last-minute boycott by the main opposition party.  Valigy also highlights the important role that the international community played in financing and supporting Mozambique’s first elections.
 
Profile

Ismael Valigy began his career at the Ministry of Education in the late 1970s. In 1990 he began working as a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Two years later, during the Mozambican peace negotiations that spanned the early 1990s, Valigy was invited to represent the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a group that the government established to help organize the country’s first election after a 15-year civil war. In late 1993 the ruling party nominated Valigy to serve on the country’s newly established Central Election Commission.  After the elections he continued his career as a diplomat, which included a posting to Washington, D.C. 

Full Audio File Size
79MB
Full Audio Title
Ismael Valigy Interview