Institutionalisation of Political Parties: Comparative Cases. Edited by Robert Harmel and Lars G. Svasand

The use of Technology in the Election Process: Who Governs?

Public Administration
Comparative Perspective
Leontine Loeber
University of East Anglia
Leontine Loeber
University of East Anglia

The goal of elections is not simple to determine the winners and losers, but also to give legitimacy to the winners, even for those voters who did not vote for them (Katz 1997). This stresses the need for free, fair and secret elections (Merloe 2009). Part of that is that elections are governed by impartial and independent, transparent and accountable electoral management bodies (Lekorwe 2006). The question of the use of new technologies to improve the election process has recently risen in different countries around the world. Although forms of electronic voting might be useful to enhance turnout or help with the counting and tabulation process, its use raises questions of governance of the election process. An election in which technology is used requires a greater technical knowledge (Schwartz and Grice 2013). If an electoral management body does not have this knowledge, it might have to rely on private companies to run the election process. Such a private company could have vested interests in the outcome of the election, raising the issue of impartiality (McGaley and McCarthy 2004). In any case, a private company cannot be held to the same standards of independence, transparency and accountability that is required of governmental bodies (Maurer 2016) This raised the question of governance of elections in case new technologies are used. Although there is some comparative research on the use of electronic means in the election process, there is so far little data on these governance issues. This paper reports new data from an international survey of electoral management bodies (n=43) and electoral officials (n=1120) with data from over 50 countries. With the use of that data, this paper makes an important contribution on the question who governs elections when technology is used.


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