Voter education

Sweden Defends its Elections Against Disinformation, 2016 – 2018

Author
Gordon LaForge
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

The Russian state information influence attack against the 2016 US presidential election rattled authorities in Sweden. The Scandinavian country of 10 million was already a frequent target of Kremlin-sponsored disinformation. With a general election approaching in September 2018 and public apprehension about a possible influence attack high, officials at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency began preparing measures to defend the credibility of the country’s electoral process. Rather than attempt to halt the creation and spread of disinformation, the agency aimed to build the resilience of institutions and society overall to withstand information influence activities. The agency trained thousands of civil servants, built and strengthened interagency coordination structures, coordinated with traditional and social media, raised public awareness, and monitored the digital information landscape. Despite a cyberattack on the Swedish Election Authority website that fanned claims of fraud and generated a flood of homegrown political disinformation, the election ran smoothly and the government doubled down on the resilience-building approach for protecting the 2022 election.

Gordon LaForge drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in October and November 2020. Case published December 2020. The Princeton University Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination supported the development of this case study.

 

 

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.

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.

Kwesi Jonah

Ref Batch
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

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

Johann Kriegler

Ref Batch
O
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
4
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Amy Mawson
Name
Johann Kriegler
Interviewee's Position
Chairman
Interviewee's Organization
South Africa Independent Electoral Commission, 1994
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
South African
Town/City
Johannesburg
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Johann Kriegler traces the fascinating story of South Africa’s post-apartheid election, the country’s first fully inclusive democratic poll. As head of the newly formed Independent Electoral Commission in 1994, Kriegler was at the heart of the process. He details the challenges the commission faced in the early months of 1994. Chief among these were a tight timeframe, the absence of a voters roll, the high level of mistrust that permeated South African politics at the time, and the weight of public expectation. Kriegler outlines how the commission tackled these challenges, and he highlights several innovative approaches along the way. He describes the vital roles played by the commission’s monitoring directorate, the party liaison committees, and Operation Access, a program that helped parties campaign in areas that were otherwise out of reach. He explains how key players were brought into the electoral process, often at the last minute, and stresses the important role that determined political will played in the ultimate success of the elections.   

Case Study:  Organizing the First Post-Apartheid Election, South Africa, 1994

Profile

Johann Kriegler was chairman of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in 1994. Before he was appointed to the IEC, Kriegler was an Appeals Court judge. After 1994, he worked as an adviser in various sensitive electoral processes around the world. He chaired the commission investigating the violence that erupted following the Kenyan elections of 2007, and he served on Afghanistan’s U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission in 2010. 

Full Audio File Size
82MB
Full Audio Title
Johann Kriegler Interview

Howard Sackstein

Ref Batch
O
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
8
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Amy Mawson
Name
Howard Sackstein
Interviewee's Position
Coordinator, Investigations Unit: Gauteng Office, 1994 Elections
Interviewee's Organization
Independent Electoral Commission, South Africa
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
South African
Place (Building/Street)
Salcom Voice Services
Town/City
Johannesburg
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
Howard Sackstein discusses the work of the Independent Electoral Commission’s Investigations Unit in 1994.  He outlines some of the challenges that the electoral commission faced that year, including a very limited timeframe, the logistical challenges of running elections in a largely rural country and the high levels of distrust and suspicion that permeated South Africa’s transition to democracy.  He also charts the many innovative aspects of the election, such as an electoral code of conduct that included serious sanctions, an effective voter education campaign, the use of professional mediators to settle local disputes and the establishment of party liaison committees.  He outlines some of the ingenious responses that individual poll workers displayed in the face of serious challenges.  He discusses the lessons the commission learned from 1994 and how commission staff drew from these lessons while preparing for the 1999 elections. 
 
Profile

South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission initially hired Howard Sackstein in February 1994 to investigate breaches of the electoral code of conduct in Mpumalanga.  Within a few weeks of joining the organization, he was promoted to coordinate the Gauteng office of the commission’s Investigations Unit, where he oversaw 36 lawyers.  After the 1994 elections, Sackstein was one of two people retained to shut down the operations of the temporary Independent Electoral Commission, before the creation of the permanent Independent Electoral Commission.  He played a key role in the 1999 elections.  In early 2010 he was running his own technology firm, Saicom Voice Services.

Full Audio File Size
144MB
Full Audio Title
Howard Sackstein Interview

Shukri Ismail

Ref Batch
U
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
14
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam
Name
Shukri Ismail
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Somali
Town/City
Hargeisa, Somaliland
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Shukri Ismail discusses the formation and work of Somaliland’s first national election commission. She explains the difficulties the commission faced organizing Somaliland’s first elections, which included a difficult voter registration process, setting the election timetable and dealing with weak and newly formed state institutions and untested election law. Ismail also discusses the difficulties with political party formation, hiring and training election staff and the potential for violence when the commission ultimately determined the presidential election had been won by 80 votes. She also touches on working with international consultants, the electoral commission’s relationship with the media, the role of the clan in Somaliland’s elections, the lessons learned from Somaliland’s first elections and the challenges still ahead.

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

Profile

At the time of this interview Shukri Ismail was the founder and director of Candle Light, a health, education, and environment non-profit based in Somaliland. She was the only female national election commissioner with Somaliland’s first National Election Commission.

Full Audio File Size
91.5 MB
Full Audio Title
Shukri Ismail Interview

Amon E. Chaligha

Ref Batch
G
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
4
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Varanya Chaubey
Name
Amon E. Chaligha
Interviewee's Position
Commissioner
Interviewee's Organization
National Electoral Commission
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Tanzanian
Town/City
Dar es Salaam
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Professor Chaligha discusses the management of elections by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in mainland Tanzania and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) in Zanzibar. The NEC is responsible for registering voters, demarcating constituencies, and conducting voter education. The relationship between the NEC and ZEC is complex in that some Zanzibar residents, who have spent less than three years in Zanzibar, are registered for mainland Tanzania’s elections. Chaligha mentions NEC’s efforts to maintain transparency on election day. For example, all candidates are allowed to place an election monitor at the polling station during voting. Following Tanzania’s constitution, leaders of political parties – including members of Parliament, councilors and ministers – are not permitted to serve on the NEC. In contrast to the NEC, the ZEC does permit political party members on the commission. A major hindrance to the NEC is its reliance on the government for funding. Chaligha proposes an election fund that the commission could call on only for elections.     

Profile

Amon Chaligha first began monitoring elections at the University of Dar es Salaam for the Department of Political Science and Department of Public Administration. The University had been involved in monitoring elections since its founding in the 1960s. At the time of the interview, Chaligha was an associate professor at the university, where he taught local government and administration and human resource management. Following his experience in monitoring elections, he was asked to join the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania as a commissioner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Audio File Size
60 MB
Full Audio Title
Chaligha - Full Interview

Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain

Ref Batch
J
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
2
Critical Tasks
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Varanya Chaubey
Name
Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain
Interviewee's Position
Commissioner
Interviewee's Organization
Bangladesh Election Committee
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Bangladesh
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Brigadier General Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain discusses the role of the Bangladesh Election Commission and its initiatives for legal, administrative and political reform. He details the Commission’s efforts to promote political party accountability. He focuses on the specifics of achieving financial transparency and more democratization within parties. He discusses the challenges faced by the Commission—particularly the skeptical attitude held by most denizens—and the ways in which they attempted to deal with them. He explains initiatives taken on by the Commission, such as the creation of a comprehensive voter list that includes photographs. He also talks about the addition of a no-vote option, which allows voters to declare that they do not wish to vote for anyone on the ballot.   

Profile

At the time of this interview Brigadier General Muhammad Sakhawat Hussain was one of three commissioners who constituted the Bangladesh Election Commission. Prior to the commission, he served in various positions in the Bangladesh Army, including both staff and command as Brigadier General. He also served as director of Sonali Bank, Bangladesh’s largest commercial bank, for two years. After retiring, he established himself as an individual researcher, writing both columns and books. His focus has been on national security and defense.

Full Audio File Size
101 MB
Full Audio Title
Muhammad Hussain Interview