Voter registration

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.

Emmanuel Debrah

Ref Batch
E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
4
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Emmanuel Debrah
Interviewee's Position
Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science
Interviewee's Organization
University of Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Emmanuel Debrah discusses the successes and challenges of the electoral process in Ghana.  He focuses on the role of the electoral commission in planning, implementing and monitoring elections and details that process.  Debrah explains the successes and challenges of voter registration in a country with limited records of birth or citizenship.  He also discusses the role of political parties in cooperating with the electoral commission, the relationship between the electoral commission and the government, and the monitoring and observation procedures for local and international observers.  Finally, Debrah touches on financial accountability structures for election officials, border demarcation issues and anti-fraud measures.    

Profile

At the time of this interview, Emmanuel Debrah was a senior lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Ghana in Accra.  He performed numerous studies of elections in Ghana, particularly on the role of the Electoral Commission.  Debrah received his doctorate in political science from the University of Ghana. 

Full Audio File Size
82 MB
Full Audio Title
Emmanuel Debrah - Full Interview

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

Johnson Asiedu-Nketia

Ref Batch
E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
13
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Johnson Asiedu-Nketia
Interviewee's Position
General Secretary
Interviewee's Organization
National Democratic Congress, Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Johnson Asiedu-Nketia discusses his role as head of the National Democratic Congress in Ghana’s Inter-Party Advisory Committee.  He describes how IPAC was able to introduce sophisticated voter registration systems and set an election schedule agreed upon by all political parties.  He also says that both IPAC and the Electoral Commission declined in effectiveness after 2000, which he attributes to lack of government support, reduced funding and an increasingly antagonistic relationship between IPAC and the commission.  He briefly touches on the role of the party in contributing to electoral transparency.    

Profile

At the time of this interview, Johnson Asiedu Nketia was general secretary of the National Democratic Congress in Ghana.  Prior to becoming head of the party, he was a member of Parliament for the NDC for 12 years.  He also served as deputy minister of food and agriculture.  Before entering politics, he worked as a bank manager.

Full Audio File Size
27 MB
Full Audio Title
Johnson Asiedu Nketia - Full Interview

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

Magnus Öhman

Ref Batch
A
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
9
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Magnus Öhman
Interviewee's Position
Country Director, International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Interviewee's Organization
Sierra Leone
Language
English
Town/City
Freetown
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Magnus Öhman discusses Sierra Leone’s 2007 elections.  He explains the considerations necessary during election sequencing, the current legal and constitutional framework for elections in Sierra Leone, and the various successes and challenges of Sierra Leone’s recent elections.  He describes the responsibilities of the National Electoral Commission, the legal framework that governs it, and its successes and challenges.  He also explains the training of poll workers, the boundary delimitation process, voter registration, and the various safeguards against fraud during both registration and voting.  Öhman also touches on the development of political parties in Sierra Leone, problems with the involvement of donor countries and international organizations, and the role of the media in elections.    

Case Study:  Mediating Election Conflict in a Bruised Society: Code of Conduct Monitoring Committees in Post-War Sierra Leone, 2006-2012

Profile

At the time of this interview, Magnus Öhman was the country director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Sierra Leone, a position he had held since 2007.  Öhman began working with IFES in 2005, after receiving a doctorate in political science from the University of Uppsala in Sweden.  He worked on political-party and campaign-finance issues from the 1990s, with a focus on disclosure processes, public funding systems and sustainable solutions.  He worked with political finance initiatives in a series of countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Indonesia, Liberia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe.  He was the lead author of the political-finance module in the BRIDGE curriculum, considered the industry standard on training in elections, democracy and governance.

Full Audio File Size
77 MB
Full Audio Title
Magnus Ohman - Full Interview

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

Albert Kofi Arhin

Ref Batch
E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
12
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Albert Kofi Arhin
Interviewee's Position
Director of Operations
Interviewee's Organization
Electoral Commission of Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghana
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Albert Kofi Arhin discusses the biggest challenges of conducting elections in Ghana. He details the process of drawing up a timetable for the elections. He explains the issues surrounding elections funding and the steps Ghana is taking to make them more affordable. Arhin also discusses staff recruiting and training, elections monitoring, boundary delimitation, and voter registration. He then focuses on fraud prevention, both in the registration process and during the elections themselves, and security issues.  Arhin also touches on the Electoral Commission’s relationship with the media, discusses voter education, and offers advice for other countries conducting difficult elections.    

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

Profile

At the time of this interview, Albert Kofi Arhin was the director of operations for the Electoral Commission of Ghana, a position he had held since 1998.  

Full Audio File Size
96 MB
Full Audio Title
Albert Kofi Arhin - Full Interview

Rebooting the System: Technological Reforms in Nigerian Elections, 2010-2011

Author
Gabriel Kuris
Focus Area(s)
Core Challenge
Country of Reform
Abstract
In 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed committed reformer Attahiru Jega to chair Nigeria’s electoral commission, building hope that the West African nation would finally break its chain of discredited elections. With under a year to prepare for the April 2011 elections, the commission turned to emerging technologies such as open-source software and social media to register 73 million voters from scratch and open a direct dialogue with the electorate. A small team of young Nigerian engineers guided by Nyimbi Odero pioneered these innovations, many of which contradicted the advice of elections experts. Despite some initial technical difficulties, Nigeria’s homegrown technology enabled the commission to prepare for elections goals on schedule and under budget. The credibility the commission earned helped spur unprecedented levels of voter participation. Ultimately, domestic and international observers validated the 2011 elections as the most free and fair in Nigeria’s history.
 

Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, in October 2011. Case published March 2012. For a broader analysis of Nigeria's 2011 elections, see "Toward a Second Independence: Repairing Nigeria's Electoral Commission, 2010-2011."

Associated Interview(s): Nyimbi OderosDapo Olorunyomi