Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance with Registration and Voting Procedures
2.0 Literature Review
The literature review includes academic publications and administrative reports from EMBs and governments, both in Canada and abroad. Though literature on the subject of ensuring compliance with polling day procedures is limited, three broad themes emerged from the review:
- There is a connection between the role of the poll worker and the level of public confidence in or integrity of the electoral process.
- There is a relationship between the "administrative burden" imposed by legal and administrative procedures and the level of motivation and error rates among poll staff.
- The quality of training can affect the experience of poll workers.
The Connection Between Poll Workers, Public Confidence and Integrity
Marcia Meyers and Susan Vorsanger (2003, 246) point out that front-line workers, which include those working at the polls, exert influence "well beyond their formal authority" because in their interaction with citizens they often exercise discretion in the interpretation of rules and policy. The authors warn that "we risk assigning them credit or blame for policy outcomes" that may have been otherwise determined by the design or organizational factors (251).
Michael Alvarez and Thad Hall (2008) also discuss the role of standard operating procedures in ensuring that the "chain of custody" in election administration functions properly. The authors describe a problem within election administration known as the "principle-agent" problem. It concerns the difficulties in motivating one party to act on behalf of the other. The authors conclude that while a chain of custody may not completely eliminate the possibility of election fraud, it will minimize the chances.
Based on interviews with electoral administrators in the UK, Toby James (2012) notes that some of the challenges electoral administrators face include increased apathy, decreased trust in the electoral system, the rise of social media, and legal complexity and diversity. According to James, there is a need for further research into the decline of electoral integrity and the potential for EMBs to improve and influence procedures.
The Relationship Between Attitude, Motivation and Administrative Burden
A US-based article by Barry Burden et al. (2011) argues that the motivation of election officials affects the successful (or unsuccessful) implementation of new policies and laws. The authors explain that, according to interviews with local officials, negative attitudes were attributable to tasks that created an administrative burden.
Similarly, Burden et al. (2012) suggest that:
[H]igher perceived administrative burdens will cause employees to prefer shifting responsibilities to others, perceive greater flaws and lesser merit in policies that have created the burden (to the point that such judgments are demonstrably wrong), and oppose policy innovations perceived as increasing workload. (3)
The authors suggest that administrative burden is largely ignored when looking into understanding bureaucratic preferences.
Marc Resnick (2001) also discusses motivation and finds that those who are motivated pay more attention.
The Quality of Training
In their article, Stephen Mockabee, J. Quin Monson and Kelly Patterson (2009, 5) argue that improvements to training are needed across all electoral jurisdictions in the US because poll workers function on election day as "semi-autonomous administrators of the law" and thereby affect, in general, who is allowed to vote. They argue that the current training system in the US consists of "large in-person training sessions, long hours, material inconsistently delivered, mostly by staff with no formal training in education, and no reliable method to certify poll worker knowledge" (6). The authors conclude that online training, coupled with face-to-face training, enhances poll workers' confidence in their abilities. According to the authors, the addition of online training may be better suited to the busy lives of poll workers because it can be flexible and convenient, and training quizzes can be used to confirm workers' knowledge about the procedures.
Efforts to optimize processes on election day and at advance polls must give due consideration to the poll workers, who form the core of the electoral system. The next sections of the report will discuss some of the practices adopted, both in Canada and abroad, to equip poll staff with the knowledge, training and expertise that they require to ensure that procedures at the polls operate smoothly and efficiently.