Election Monitoring

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Using mobile phone technology in Ghana to monitor elections

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

As Kwami mentioned in his comment titled Making Results, the use of mobile phones in Ghana during the recent elections played "an important role in getting the electorate informed about the electoral process." Additionally, mobile phones were used to monitor the election. 

In an article on mobileactive.org"systematic SMS reporting by trained local citizen observers about how well an election is conducted can prevent rumors, and is an independent and reliable indicator about the quality of the election process."

In Ghana, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) were able to mobilize 4,000 trained observers "deployed all over Ghana are using their phones to report on incidences at the polls and how well the polls are conducted, using a coded checklist."  This information is then sent to the Observation Center (the 'OC') which serves as the technology hub, where the data is compiled.  

The article states, "Mobile technology, and text messaging in particular, is playing a
critical piece in relaying both qualitative data on how the election is
being conducted, and quantitative data that will verify the official
results issued by the Ghanaian Election Commission."

Furthermore, CODEO (with help from NDI) has developed a way to measure the accuracy of vote counts via mobile phones:

"1,000 of the observers are also conducting 'Parallel Vote Tabulation', a methodology that independently verifies the accuracy of the official vote count at the end of election day.  As the name suggests, the observers are watching as the votes are counted at the randomly selected polling stations where they are deployed before ballots are collated and transported. This allows observers to get as close as possible to an actual count.  The vote tabulation for each candidate and party are then immediately transmitted by the observer via SMS to the CODEO Observation Center to be tabulated and compared with the official results. 

Since these 1,000 polling stations constitute a representative sample of the more than 22,000 polling stations in Ghana, a well-conducted parallel vote tabulation provides a very reliable indicator as to whether the total official vote count announcements are accurate."

How have other organizations used mobile phone technology to monitor elections?


Using mobile phone technology in Ghana to monitor elections

Ian Schuler, National Democratic Institute

I was fortunate enough to be part of the NDI team that assisted CODEO with the observation of the recent election in Ghana. I was able to see firsthand how powerful mobile technology was in allowing CODEO to quickly collect and share a comprehensive body of information on the conduct and results of the election.

Most modern election observation efforts take advantage of the recent proliferation in mobile phones. Nearly all use mobile phone calls as part of their communications system. Very few use photos and video in a systematic way to document aspects of an election. An oft-quoted example is the Movement for Democratic Change's attempt to photograph the blue protocol documents posted at all polling stations in Zimbabwe. (This was a partisan poll-watching effort not an independent observation. ZESN's projection of the results did not use camera phones.) In South Korea, the Election Commission set up a hotline and encouraged citizens to submit pictures of vote buying.(This was a citizen reporting, not election monitoring.)

SMS provides a number of interesting applications for election observation. SMS is a powerful communications tool because it is cheap, familiar, and can be automated. In Ghana, observers sent information using special codes that allowed the message to be automatically parsed and processed by a computer in CODEO's Observation Center. This allowed CODEO to quickly collect and analyze 54,570 data points within a few hours. The richness of this information provided CODEO the best information available on the conduct of elections and results. This had a tremendous impact on the depth of and confidence in their findings.

SMS has been used a part of a communications system in election observations in Albania, Bahrain, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and the Palestinian Territories. Election Monitoring organizations have used SMS in the following ways:

  1. To collect information on the quality of elections. In Sierra Leone, quick and comprehensive information on the quality of elections was vital to providing Sierra Leoneans with an alternative to alarmist and rumor-driven accounts of the elections, and thus contributed to a peaceful post-election environment.
  2. To collect results and turnout information. During Montenegro's 2005 Referendum on Independence, the Center for Democracy (CDT) used SMS to report on turnout and results figures in the hours after the election. CDT quickly projected that the mandatory turnout threshold had been met and that the results Referendum would be extremely close. CDT advised citizens to wait for a complete count of the vote, in which they should have confidence.
  3. To collect information on critical incidents. Rapid reporting of critical incidents not only contributes to an organization's assessment of the election but many groups share this information with the relevant authorities in order that they can be remedied while the election is still in progress. In Albania, the Coalition of Democratic Observers reported 165 critical incidents via SMS during polling. In previous elections, where SMS wasn't used, the vast majority of incident reports were received well after polling closed.
  4. To communicate information, instructions and appreciation to observers. Outgoing messages help to reinforce a sense of commeradary and purpose to scattered observers and provide crucial updates should the political situation rapidly change. Blast messages were used extensively in Montenegro and Ghana to instruct observers participating in communications tests.
  5. To coordinate with the press and other stakeholders. Given the intense and fluid nature of elections, press conferences are often arranged on very short notice. CODEO used a combination of SMS and email to reach out to local and international media in Ghana.

If you are interested, you might consult an article I wrote on SMS in election observation (pdf) or the more time-friendly MobileActive write up.

Mobile phones have been used in a variety of other citizen efforts to promote transparent and credible elections including voter education, get-out-the-vote efforts, citizen reporting on elections, conflict reporting (Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe). The MobileActive Strategy Guide to Elections covers several examples. Of course, it is important to distinguish these efforts from professional election monitoring, involving trained and accredited observers.

Citizen Reporting

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Thank you, Ian! The MobileActive Strategy Guide to Elections is a great resource for anyone thinking about using mobile phone technology for their election work. It explains how organizations can use this technology for raising awareness, election monitoring, voter registrations, and more. There are great real-world examples of each tactic, and 'lessons learned'. Thank you for sharing this!

I am very curious to learn more about citizen reporting. Can you share more about the S Korea election and the use of citizen reporting there? Is anyone else aware of examples of organizations using citizen reporting to monitor elections?  

Training Manuals and Resources on Election Monitoring

There have been excellent resources developed by a wide
variety of organizations with vast experience related to election monitoring
and processes.  Some of these resources
have been cited by the dialogue participants. I thought it might be useful to
place them here for easy access.

Resources from the National Democratic Institute (www.ndi.org)

Organizations involved in election monitoring: http://www.ndi.org/election_monitoring_organizations

They have a wealth of publications available: http://www.ndi.org/publications

NDI has wonderful manuals on a wide variety of democracy
building efforts and training that are available. There a wide variety of
country specific manuals available in country specific or cross-border
languages. For a list of their manuals, use this link: http://www.ndi.org/libraryquicksearch?op0=%3D&filter0=manual

Here are a few that are specific to election monitoring:

New NDI Guide on Monitoring Electronic Technologies Designed to Help Ensure International Electoral Integrity (http://www.ndi.org/node/14414)

Mobile Active Strategy Guide #1 - Using Mobile Phones in Electoral and Voter Registration Campaigns (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/13808)

Campaign for Good Governance Toolkit: An Organizational Framework (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/13409)

An English-Arabic Translator's Guide to Election Terminology (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/13617)

The Quick Count and Election Observation: An NDI Guide for Civic Organizations and Political Parties (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/12993)

NDI Handbook: How Domestic Organizations Monitor Elections: an A to Z Guide (1995) (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/15090)

Media and Elections (Arabic) (http://www.accessdemocracy.org/node/13613)

Resources fomr the OSCE/ODIHR (www.osce.org)

From the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights there are a wide variety of handbooks available regarding different
aspects of electoral processes. Use this link for a list of all their manuals: http://www.osce.org/publications/

Here are a few specific to election monitoring:

Handbook for Domestic Election Observers (Available
in English and Russian) (http://www.osce.org/item/13586.html)

Election Observation - A decade of monitoring elections: the people and the practice (2005) (http://www.osce.org/item/17148.html) (Available in English, Dutch, French and Russian)

Election Observation Handbook (Available in English, Albanian, French, Georgian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian) (http://www.osce.org/item/14004.html)

Guidelines to Assist National Minority Participation in the Electoral Process (Available in English, Russian and Serbian) (http://www.osce.org/item/13589.html)

Handbook for Monitoring Women's Participation in Elections (Available in English, Russian and Serbian) (http://www.osce.org/item/13585.html)

Handbook for Long-Term Election Observers (http://www.osce.org/item/24088.html)

For other OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) publications related to elections: (http://www.osce.org/odihr/publications.html?lsi=true&limit=10&grp=243)

NEEDS Network of the European Union (http://www.needs-network.org/) has put
out a couple of publications that are very useful:

and Defending Democracy: The Work of Domestic Election Observer Groups Around
the World


Handbook for European Union Election
(Available in English, French and
Spanish) http://www.needs-network.org/pdfs/Handbook%202008.pdf

Compendium of International
Standards for Elections

Benchmarks for Electoral Standards: A Guide for
European Union Election Observation Missions

International IDEA has a free CD-ROM
Electoral System Design

This CD-ROM presents full text versions of the Handbook in five languages:
English, Spanish, Nepali, Russian and Kyrgyz. Translations into Burmese, Arabic
and French of the 1997 edition of the handbook are also included, together with
a world map of electoral systems and other related materials. There is a new
2005 handbook available for purchase.

Electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA) has links to
additional helpful resources: http://www.eisa.org.za/WEP/links.htm#han

There is also a great list of on-line resources from around
the world, see this website:

Elections and Electoral Systems (http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/election.htm)

R@D: Mobile Activism in African Elections - a Comparative Case S

I wanted to share this new report recently published by DigiActive on mobile activism in African Election. 

Title: Mobile Technology in African Elections: a Comparative Case Study

Author: Rebekah Heacok

The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa is transforming the
political and social landscape of the developing world, empowering
people to source and share their own information and to have a greater
say in what comes to international attention. This R@D product compare
the use and impact of mobile technology in three recent African
elections: Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Nigeria’s April 2007 presidential election, a local civil society
organization used free software to collect over 10,000 text message
reports from voters around the country, boosting citizen participation
in a political process many Nigerians doubted. In Sierra Leone’s
August-September 2007 elections, trained local monitors used mobile
phones to collect data from designated polling sites, enabling the
independent National Election Watch to compile and release an accurate,
comprehensive analysis of the election almost two weeks before the
official report. And in Kenya’s December 2007 election, a group of
local digital activists developed and implemented a citizen reporting
platform to allow Kenyans to report and track post-election violence
during a month-long media blackout, collecting and publishing a
comprehensive account of riots, displacement and human rights abuses
that serves as one of the best available records of the crisis.

Let us know if you find this helpful!

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Canada Needs Monitoring

I forget who it was who said; "Democracy is not in the voting, but in the counting."  Before we get too preachy about monitoring elections elsewhere, I think Canadians need to get our own house in order.  

The Jan.2006 Canadian election was determined by one man, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, who sent a MID-ELECTION fax message in which he FALSELY implicated Ralph Goodale and the Liberals by ILLEGALLY informing an NDP MP that a "criminal investigation" was initiated into a suspected leak of Finance Ministry information re income trust taxation.  The last poll before this story entered the news placed the Libs ahead 10 %, and the first poll after the story entered the news placed the Conservatives ahead 10%.  Ralph Goodale was eventually absolved of all wrongdoing, and Zaccardelli was rewarded by Harper with an appointment to Interpol, after he was accused by fellow RCMP officers of lying to a Parliamentary Committee--Chaired by a Conservative--investigating the pilfering of RCMP pension funds. (As RCMP Commissioner through the entire Maher Arar debacle, Zaccardelli was also responsible for the creation of Arar'a false "terror" file, its illegal sharing with US authorities, Arar's "rendering" to torture in Syria, and leaks of Arar's false "confessions" gained by torture to the media while the Canadian government dragged its feet on his safe return.)

Knowing what I know about the 2006 election, I decided to observe the counting at the poll where I voted in the most recent election.  At one of the two polls in the room, the counters were totally confused, and I personally had to draw their attention to two mistakes, where a candidate other than the one on the ballot received a check mark under his name. (Maybe just coincidence, but both miscounts had been given to the eventual winner.)  The poll manager, who apparently had some previous experience, was complaining aloud that poll procedures were more complicated than before.  She seemed exasperated by the whole affair and mused how easy her job would be with an electronic voting machine.  I asked if she knew that Both of George Bush's elections were stolen via vote machines, among other things.  She didn't.

Another interesting point:  The poll manager was VERY surprised when I asked if I could monitor.  She said no one had ever asked her before, and had to consult her Elections Canada rule book.  She was impressed with the quote about democracy being in the counting, and wondered why more people aren't interested in monitoring.  There were Liberal and NDP party monitors there, but it was ME who caught the miscounts.

So, before we send any more election monitors to other countries, we need to prove that our own elections are up to snuff.  The recent coronation of pro-war Harvard professor Ignatieff by the party elite, behind closed doors and without due process, should raise some flags for Canadians.  We don't want to infect other countries with our disrepute.

Monitoring in established democracies

This makes the important point that election observation can make a positive contribution in long-established democracies as well as in new or developing democracies.  No election is perfect.  In addition to finding mistakes and building confidence, an important function of observers is to provide recommendations on how future elections can be improved.  This is a contribution that should be welcomed in developed democracies, 


monitoring in established democracies cont'd

Of relevance to this question, as well the question of necessary preconditions at the top of the discussion: If I remember correctly, one reason President Carter gave for not monitoring US elections (besides his links to one of the parties) was that they do not meet the necessary preconditions for free and fair elections: specifically, instead of having independent bodies responsible for administering the elections, state election authorities (secretaries of state) were in most cases also partisan figures and even campaign chairs. Glad to hear the one in Minnesota is acting professionally, because that is not always the case (most famously in Florida in 2000). Not trying to open a debate on problems with the US  system or the validity of our recent elections, but did want to reinforce that the lessons of international elections monitoring can and should be applied at home.

Canada Needs Monitoring

Very interesting story about election in Canada. I fully agree with the idea that there are not perfect elections, as there is no perfect election code and perfect election procedures however the difference in election processes between the functioning democracies and developing countries is in the level of transperency and in trust towards the electoral processes. Basically trust is strenghtened when the process is implemeted transparantly in a good faith. As you mentioned in your experience poll worker did not know whether she could allow you on the ballot counting but she did finaly after consulting the Election Canada rule book and this is very important because in many developing countries the poll worker would simply refuse.

I think that if behaving in a bad faith elections can be frauded with both electronic voting mashines and with the paper ballots. The most important is the transparancy of the process for the sake of trust and poll workers acting in a good faith.   

Trust and Transparency

The citizens of the state of Minnesota are currently going through a state-wide recount for our 2008 Senatorial position between two candidates. The recent incumbent, Norm Coleman (Republican) and Al Franken (Democrat). The recount process has revealed some procedural inconsistencies but for the most part, Minnesota has shown itself to be highly organized and transparent in its processes. This will hopely add to the trust citizens have in our process but also be more committed to maintaining the "paper trail" procedures that have made this state-wide recount possible. 

There had been attempts by the previous secretary of state to institute the paperless ballot machines. Our current secretary of state, Mark Ritchie, has been stalwart in his defense of our accounting processes and has made significant improvements to those processes. I have been an election poll judge in Minnesota since the 2000 election. The materials and training continues to improve.

It was especially exciting to see the record number of citizens come out to vote in the last election.  I find it particularly heartening that the re-count process has been followed closely because so many people told me they came to vote in this election because they wanted their vote to count.  For some - over 50 years of age - this was the first time they had voted in an election. If we fail to maintain trust and transparency, those voters who did take the step to engage in the process, will once again be lost to indifference or skepticism.

I'd like to hear how election monitors in other countries are trying to reach citizens to build that trust and ensure transparency in their processes.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Thank you Nancy for your

Thank you Nancy for your comment about the trust issue, indeed who is responsible to build the trust of voters towards the processes, this is extremely interesting and important issue. For example in Georgia the problem is that the level of trust of voters and election subjects towards the election processes is very low. I agree that monitoring organizations should contribute to built the trust but this burden should not be put only on eleciton monitoring organizations' shoulders. Elections are conducted by the eleciton administration, this is the institution that should act in an outmost transperent manner, however in many cases they are not acting in a transperent way. There had been cases during the recent elections when the observers were not allowed to observe polls (this is agains the Election Law in Georgia), in this kind of sircumstances I strongly believe that building the trust or maintaining the trust of voters towards the election processes should be mainly done by the election administration.

Monitoring of By-elections


Monitoring of By-elections is very much essetial and it requires lot of new tactics.  Very recently in Thirumangalam Assemly constituency in Tamilnadu, India, by election was conducted.  Wide spread use of money power was reported in almost all press.  The Election Commission is worried about the fact that nearly 30 per cent of votes were polled only at the last one hour.  the question now is what new tactice can be applied to avoid money power and impersonisation in voting.

Monitoring By-elections

The issue of by-elections underscores the importance of domestic observers.  Since international organizations seldom observe by-elections, the role of domestic observers can be crucial in helping ensure the integrity of the process during by-elections. 

There are many methods of helping to reduce irregularities through impersonation.  The best are a good voter list and a carefully enforced requirement for voters to present photo identifcation.  Political party or candidate agents at the polling station can also participate usefully in the process of preventing impersonation.   The most important factor in preventing impersonation on a large scale, however, is honest election officials.

The problem of money power is more difficult to control.  One way to reduce the problem is to have a limit on campaign expenditures, coupled with a good oversight and enforcement mechanism to police expenditures.  This works best in a system that is transparent, that is, a system in which candidates must publicly reveal, in a timely manner, all campaign income and expenditures.

Re: Monitoring By-Elections

Thank you for making some valuable suggesstions with regards to my concern abut Monitoring of By- elections.

As rightly pointed out, the role of local NGOs must be more.  As the political party in power is pumping money and manpower by way of making the the ministers to be  in-charge of electioneering, large scale misuse of power is experienced.  It is estimated each voter was bribed to the tune of  100 Us doller. Other pecuniary benefits were also noticed.

How activists in other part of the world deal with these type of situations would be very useful for future guidence 



Vote buying

From the experience of Ukraine I can tell that vote buying, which was mentioned in the previous contributions, is really an important issue that should be addressed in the process of election monitoring, both at by-elections (local elections) and national elections. This shameful practice comes up quite often in the countries where corruption is wide-spread, and, unfortunately, Ukraine’s elections provide a couple of examples.

The victory at the recent mayoral election in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, was secured by Leonid Chernovetsky, the candidate who had widely used vote buying, especially within the population with low income, in the run-up to the elections. He used to present food packages with basic and cheap food items (such as cereals or canned food) to the people with low income, and as a result they cast their votes for him. At the snap election called in two years time, Chernovetsky again celebrated a victory, despite the fact that most of the capital residents were very unsatisfied with his rule. As it turned out, the mayor used to provide “his voters” (mostly retired people) with regular social payments during all the period since the election, describing this as charity, and this time they also voted for him. This is a sad example since this mayor is a disaster for the city.

And there is no clear strategy yet how to deal with this sad practice of vote buying, which is likely to repeat again. 

Issue of legitimising a dictator


I agree with the view that election monitoring can actually legitimise a dictatorship. This has been the case in Zimbabwe from 1980 until the 2000 parliamentary elections.

When we talk about monitoring an election or an election process we should look at the context and the content under which those elections take place. In the Zimbabwean context we needed to look and examine the political environment which was replete with militarisation of state institutions including those responsible for the administration of the election, poltical violence by the state and the ruling party, muzzling of the media, plethora of repressive laws meant to curtail opposition and civil society activitie.

Unless the administrative aspect which deals with the need need for an independent electoral body, number of polling stations, number of ballot papers and the finances to run the polls and evironmental issues to do with the observation of the rule of law, election processes and monitoring in the case of Zimbabwe were meant to legitimise the Mugabe dictatorship.

In this regard election monitoring should be done in a situation where the political environment is democratised and the administration of that election is transparent. When Mugabe agreed to some partial reforms on these two fronts and then allowed the Souther African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) members states to observe and not to monitor the March 2008 elections, he lost the poll. Upon realising that the reforms made him to lose the elections, he renaged on all those reforms and went on a violent campaign of rape, murder, arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and abductions against his percieved opponents and the country remains in a political limbo with no legitimate government since March 2008.



Minority Rights & Election Monitoring

Roddy, you raise an important concern regarding the human rights of minorities and election monitoring. 

To accurately characterize the nature of an election process, election monitoring must address the range of human rights necessary to achieve genuine elections, which require the free exercise of the right and opportunity to vote and to be elected - without unreasonable restrictions and without discrimination based on race, color, national or social origin, language, religion, gender, political or other opinion, property, or other status that traditionally is used as a basis to deny equality. The authority for this proposition is Article 25 of the ICCPR, to which over 160 countries are parties, and other human rights instruments, as well as most national constitutions. 

Universal and equal suffrage, which are inseperable from genuine elections, are based on an anti-discrimination norm embodied in all human rights instruments.  Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination speaks directly to this point.   Requirements for equality before the law, equal protection of the law and the right to effective remedies for rights violations combine and reforce the antidiscrimination norm in the election context and beyond.

Election monitors should carefully examine the electoral context of a country and assess the potential effects of discrimination in the drawing of election district boundaries, development of voter registries, definition of citizenship when citizenship is a voter eligibility requirement, issuance of identification documents that are necessary to secure the voting franchise, candidate qualification, location of polling stations, provision of adequate materials and other resources for operating voting stations, behavior of security forces towards protecting the rights to vote and to be elected, incidents of violence and other coercion against minorities in the election context, provisions concerning minority languages for voter education and participating in voting processes, amolng other matters. 

While such issues are examined in relationship to election and political processes, they cannot be separated from the broader environment for minorities.  Election monitoring is no substitute for monitoring abuses of and/or respect for the rights of minorities and other politically marginalized populations.  If done properly, however,election monitoring can provide a window onto how minorities are treated in a counrty.  Election monitoring practice is quite uneven on these issues and needs improvement.   

The OSCE's Office forf Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) published short guides on monitoring minority rights in elections and on monitoring womens' rights in elections.  The European Union, OAS, and other election monitoring organizations have addressed these issues in their handbooks.  Nonetheless, monintoring techniques are needed on these issues for varied conditions, from Guatemala to Kenya and Kosovo to Nepal.

 ---Pat Merloe---

Domestic Monitoring Cooperation

Domestic nonpartisan election monitoring organizations can -- and often do -- cooperate both inside their countties and across borders. 

Cooperation inside countries takes place within coalitions and complementary initiatives form for election-day coverage inside and outside polling stations.  It also takes place in pre-election and post election periods.  From NDI experience in assisting nonpartisan election monitoring groups in over 70 counties, as this work develops over time, more elements of the election process are monitored, and specialization allows for additional types cooperation.  For example, media monitoring, campaign finance monitoring, voter list monitoring, political violence monitoring, monitoring of electoral complaints before election commissions and courts may suit different organizations that share information and interests, while some groups seek to address the overall process and can make use of the other's work. 

Without going too far into detail, campaign finance monitoring in the US is conducted at the national level by a small number of group that meet and discuss common interests.  Some concentrate on different aspects of the issue, and they seek common points in election reform.  In Zimbabwe, the main election monitoring effort is conducted by ZESN, which is a joint effort of human rights and other civic organizations.  In Nigeria's recent elections, labor unions, civic groups and the TMG (a long established organization that itself started as a coalition) used a common election day observation form and shared findings, though they did not produce a unnified statement.  They, plus the Nigerian Bar Association, continue to cooperative in seeking electoral reform.  In Nicaragua, a university based organization monitored the voter registration process, while a number of groups have jointly developed an electoral regorm agenda and others have monitored polling stations, while Ethica & Transparencia has conducted quick counts (or PVTS).  There are many such examples arounf the globe.

Cross border cooperation takes sevel forms.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, election monitoring groups developed a cooperation accord, the Acuerdo de Lima, to share information and attend each others elections to offer assistance and solidarity.  They send people with technical expertise to help, and leaders from different groups join press conferences with the country's monitoeing groups to show that they believe that findings are credible.  The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), which has member groups from central and eastern Europe and Eurasia also shares information, and it mounts international election observation missions.  The Asian Association for Free Elections (ANFREL) is made up of domestic monitoring groups and also sends international observers to elections.  The SADC Election Support Network (SADC-ESN) develops capacity building efforts with its member groups.  There are other examples as well, which I have worked with through NDI.  A global network of domestic election monitors, with over 120 organizations and regional associations, is developing for information sharing.    

Cooperation across borders is a hallmark of domestic election monitoring; the groups have done much to spead nonpartisan principles and monitoring techniques from the beginning of this activity in the 1980s. 

---Pat Merloe---

Combatting Bias through Principles for International Observation

The leading organizations involved in international election observation are engaged in a process to safeguard the integrity of election observation, enhance the effectiveness of observation techniques, improve cooperation and clarify best practices for cooperating with credible nonpartisan election monitors.

This multi-year process produced the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and its accompanying Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.  The Declaration of Principles is now endoresed by 33 organizations, including intergovernmental organizations such as the UN Secretariat, the European Commission, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organization of American States, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Huiman RIghts (OSCE/ODIHR), among others, parliamentary organizations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, European Parliament, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Assembly, among others, and international NGOs such as NDI, the Carter Center, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), the European Nework of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), among others.

Beyond the Declaration and Code of Conduct, the process includes a series of implementation meetings and informal working sessions on specific topics, such as criteria for assessing the numerous elements of an election process and monitoring various elements, including electronic electoral technologies, campaign finance, the roles of media in elections, women's electoral participation, and other issues.  Discussion materials, publications of the participating and other resources are shared in order to enhance and harmonize observation.

The Declaration of Principles is posted on the websites of the endorsing organizations and can be found in 15 languages at http://www.ndi.org/files/1923_declaration_102705_0.pdf

The Declaration emphasizes that election observation is part of human rights monitoring, provides basic approaches to eliminating conflicts of interest and ensuring impartiality in observation efforts, addresses the long-term and complex nature of election observation, sets out the need to avoid legitimizing non-democratic elections and ways to address this challenge, as well as the basics for credible observation methodologies.  The Declaration is being used in observation missions and as a basis for negotiating with governments about terms of reference, including access and other matters. 

As one of the drafters and negotiators of the Declaration and Code of Conduct, it is encouraging to see the process coutinuing to enhance communication and cooperation among observers in an unprecedented effort among intergovernmental organizations and international NGOs to enhance and harmonize election observation.  There is also a process among nonpartisan domestic election monitoring groups to share knowledge and discuss principles, whic is developing through regional associations of these groups and the global network of domestic election monitors.   Such efforts are needed to ensure the integrity and advance the effectivness of election monitoring.  

---Pat Merloe---

Relationship between election monitoring and human rights


Elections by their nature are an exercise  of a plethora of human rights in a democracy. There two therefore go hand in hand.

When one talks about election monitoring it basically means how the right to vote is practised and promoted in that context. In order to exercise the right to elect representatives in any constitutional democracy that is founded on the rule of law there is need to realise freedoms of expression, assembly, life, association, religion, opinion and other fundamental rights as expoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The monitoring of an election in my view is meant to see the de facto and de jure exercise of these rights. In the event that  lives are lost through extra-judicial killings as was the case in my country Zimbabwe in the June 2008 presidential election run-off where over 200 opposition activists were murdered by the regime of Robert Mugabe then that process and its outcome  is neither free nor fai.

Monitoring of elections are allow people to meaure human rights in existence, practice and their promotion in upholding democratic practices. The whole purpose of monitoring and observing elections is meant to make sure that human rights are protected, see the challenges in the electoral framework and rectify them with the view of building a norm compliant society that is premised on the rule of law.

This relationship between a election monitoring and human rights is one issue that countries ruled by dictators such as Zimbabwe struggle to establish becuase most repressive regimes do not want to be scrutinized on the way they run the affairs of the State.


Role of election authorities

I would like to develop the observations of Pat Merloe about the role of electoral authorities. While observers usually monitor the process of voting, they are usually not allowed to monitor vote counting (at least in Ukraine). At this stage, a lot depends on professionalism and integrity of polling station commissioners. In Ukraine in 2004, the NGO coalition implemented the nation-wide project on the training of polling station commissioners, which was funded by the West and proved to be very effective, because often commissioners did not have any previous experience. During the presidential elections in 2004, members of polling station commissions often were the ones who stood up against attempts to falsify results.  


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