Building Better Elections: Election Management in Comparative Perspective
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Comparative Political Institutions
The number of elections that are held around the world has increased substantially with over 90% of the world’s nation states now holding regular national elections (Hyde and Marinov 2012). While many elections are conducted across the world to very high standards, there remains evidence of problems with poor election quality in both established and transitional democracies (Lehoucq 2003; Alvarez, Atkeson, and Hall 2012; Birch 2011; Norris 2014, 2015; James 2014). The design and performance of electoral management boards (EMBs), the organizations responsible for conducting elections, is one of the key factors shaping election integrity and has accordingly become a pressing concern for policy makers.
Conducting an election is a huge logistical challenge that involves the complex management of people, technology and resources. Planning and executing an election is comprised of a variety of technical and administrative tasks: voters must be registered and educated, candidates must register and keep track of their expenses, ballots must be designed, printed, distributed and counted. These electoral management tasks are crucial to engendering confidence in the electoral process and legitimacy of the results, and to maintaining election integrity.
Yet EMBs come in many different organizational forms around the world, and it is not clear how EMB institutional design and performance shapes election integrity. Previous work on this topic has taken three major paths. The first, building on the work of international and inter-governmental organizations, such as the International IDEA (International IDEA 2014), considers the legal designs and functions of election management bodies themselves, in an attempt to build better electoral institutions (Birch 2011; Norris 2014; van Ham and Lindberg 2015). The second, drawing primarily on the sharp increase of research on election laws following the 2000 election in the United States, looks at the efficacy of specific election laws, from postal voting to voter identification laws, in improving turnout and trust in elections (Hasen 2012; Hall 2013). The third uses tools from public administration to understand how to improve EMB organisational performance (Alvarez, Atkeson, and Hall 2012b, 2012a; Montjoy 2008; James 2013, forthcoming; Garnett forthcoming). Despite these inroads, there remain huge gaps in knowledge with most studies limited in their focus to the USA.
This conference Section welcomes Papers from all three major avenues of inquiry, and furthermore suggests a number of crucial areas that require additional scholarly research. It therefore invites Papers on the most pressing electoral management issues around the globe, including:
- Election management body structure, capacity and impartiality
- Election management personnel, from election management body members and members of special judiciaries or electoral courts, to local returning officers and poll workers
- Voter registration, including list management procedures
- Civic education conducted by government agencies and departments
- Candidate and party registration and regulation
- Voting process and infrastructure, including convenience measures such as early voting and postal balloting, recruitment and training of poll workers, ballot design and placement of polling locations
- The use of technology within electoral management boards
- The role of international electoral assistance
- The vote count and announcing of results.
We encourage Papers from a variety of methodological perspectives, including policy evaluation, case studies, cross-national comparative studies, and field experiments.
This Section will be sponsored by, and launch the new Electoral Management Network (http://www.electoralmanagement.com/), a collective of scholars who research election management around the globe. The researchers involved in the Electoral Management Network will present the first results of a research project surveying EMB organisations in over 30 countries in Europe.
This Section is supported by the ECPR Standing Group on Comparative Political Institutions.
The Section is keen to bring together both established and emerging scholars and geographic and gender balance will be important.
Alvarez, R. Michael, Lonna Rae Atkeson, and Thad E. Hall. 2012a. Confirming Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
———. 2012b. Evaluating Elections: A Handbook of Methods and Standards. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Birch, Sarah. 2011. Electoral Malpractice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Garnett, Holly Ann. forthcoming. "Open election management bodies." In Election Watchdogs, edited by Pippa Norris and Alessandro Nai. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hall, Thad E. 2013. "US Voter Registration Reform." Electoral Studies, 32, (4), p. 589-96.
Hasen, Richard L. 2012. The voting wars: From Florida 2000 to the next election meltdown. Grand Rapids, MI: Yale University Press.
International IDEA. 2014. Electoral Management Design: Revised Edition. Stockholm: International IDEA.
James, Toby S. 2013. "Fixing failures of U.K. electoral management." Electoral Studies, 32, (4), p. 597-608.
———. forthcoming. Comparative Electoral Management: Performance, Networks and Instruments. London and New York: Routledge.
Montjoy, Robert S. 2008. "The Public Administration of Elections." Public Administration Review, 68, (5), p. 788-99.
Norris, Pippa. 2014. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. New York: Cambridge University Press.
van Ham, Carolien, and Staffan Lindberg. 2015. "When Guardians Matter Most: Exploring the Conditions Under Which Electoral Management Body Institutional Design Affects Election Integrity." Irish Political Studies, 30, (4), p. 454-81.