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Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance with Registration and Voting Procedures

4.0 International Consultations

The international consultations drew from two lines of inquiry: an online survey of representatives of independent EMBs and an online discussion forum on the ACE Practitioners' Network.

To identify potential survey respondents, Elections Canada generated a list of independent EMBs and corresponding e-mail addresses. This list excluded countries in which government departments or ministries were responsible for election administration, resulting in a final list of 106 countries. A letter of invitation from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada was sent by e-mail to one contact per organization. Where possible, the primary contact was the chief electoral officer, election commission president, or equivalent. The survey, which was administered online, contained 15 questions and was available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. It included closed-ended and open-ended questions. Countries had two weeks to complete the survey. Surveys that were not properly authenticated were discarded, leaving a final sample size of n= 27.

Table 1: Participating Countries
Europe Americas Africa Asia/Oceania
  • Croatia
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Russian Federation
  • Slovenia
  • United Kingdom
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • El Salvador
  • Guyana
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Namibia
  • Tanzania
  • The Gambia
  • Australia
  • India
  • Kiribati
  • Mongolia
  • New Zealand
  • Tonga
  • Yemen

Elections Canada also posted a question for discussion on the ACE Practitioners' Network (, which has a secure online forum that allows its over 500 active members from around the world to exchange electoral expertise, experience and knowledge. Members were invited to contribute their knowledge of practices that improve compliance. The posted text was as follows:

We would like to initiate a discussion on methods for ensuring compliance with election law and administrative requirements, and we invite you to share any insights or comments that you may have. Initiatives that are efficient, sustainable and 'friendly' to both voters and poll staff (defined as those responsible for interacting with electors during voting and registration activities on Election Day and at advance polls) are of particular interest.

The question garnered 18 responses from network members. Their responses have been integrated into this section and serve to supplement data obtained from the survey.

Some limitations should be considered. As is the case for the national consultations, compliance measures adopted have not been rigorously evaluated or tested, and thus cannot be considered to be proven best practices. In addition, electoral systems and political cultures in other countries vary significantly; as a result, many of the practices described or advocated by given countries may not be applicable in a different context. Furthermore, the survey's limited sample size does not allow for meaningful comparisons between regions and electoral systems. It should not be assumed that findings from the international consultations in this study are necessarily representative of democratic systems worldwide or of any particular region.

Despite these limitations, the international consultations offer valuable insights into diverse experiences. Many countries and experts recognized the importance of compliance and reported a variety of innovative measures to ensure that poll workers perform their duties accurately and consistently.

Findings from the international consultations are summarized below. They are organized under three topics: voting and registration, recruitment and training, and monitoring and auditing. Each topic is divided into two parts. The first provides descriptive statistics based on survey results, while the second presents an analysis of qualitative findings.

4.1 Voting Services Design

The following figures provide an overview of the requirements for voting and registration among the countries who participated in the survey:

Effective Practices

Verifying Voter ID

Some countries noted innovative methods for verifying electors' ID. In New Zealand, for example, each elector is issued an EasyVote card. The card, generated from data held in the enrolment system and mailed to the elector one week before election day, lists the elector's name, residential address, electoral district, and page and line number as they appear on the printed roll of electors. At the polling place, the poll worker can refer to the card to quickly find the elector's details on the printed roll, strike out his or her name, and issue the voting papers. The New Zealand Electoral Commission noted that the EasyVote card has resulted in more efficient and accurate voter processing.

The role of the EasyVote card may be broadened in the future, with the Electoral Commission currently developing a proposal that will enable election officials to accept voters' EasyVote cards as a record that a ballot paper has been issued, instead of requiring staff to strike out names. The EasyVote card would then be retained as evidence that a ballot has been issued and would be scanned after polls close to contribute to a national electronic master roll. It is hoped that this proposed system will allow for faster and more accurate scrutiny of the roll, and improve the detection of apparent double votes.

In Latvia, for parliamentary elections and referendums, it was reported that there is no voters list and that electors can vote at any polling station by using their passport as ID or proof of citizenship. The passport is subsequently stamped by poll workers to ensure that everyone votes only once.

In Mongolia, all electors are required to register using their fingerprint.

Using Technology and Electronic Systems

The use of technology in the registration and voting process was cited as an effective practice by some countries. In India, for example, an electronic registration and voting service model is used, which provides for "more effective deployment of staff, payment of staff, transparency in [the] conduct of elections and immediate response to the law and order problems." Kenya also suggested the use of electronic poll books as an effective practice. In New Zealand, the Electoral Commission is developing a proposal for full online registration, which would allow electors to update their enrolment details online rather than using a paper form.

Tailoring Voting Materials

Modifications to voting materials were also described by some countries. In New Zealand, printed electoral rolls used to mark off voters when they are issued their voting papers were increased in size, as were fonts. The Electoral Commission noted that this initiative assisted poll staff in locating names and striking them out, while reducing eye strain and headaches. This allowed for a quicker turnaround of voters being allocated their papers.

In The Gambia, marbles or tokens and a metallic ballot drum are used instead of paper ballots. It was suggested that this system is useful for electors with limited literacy and reduces the number of spoiled ballots.

4.2 Recruitment and Training

The following figures provide an overview of the recruitment and training processes among the countries who participated in the survey:

Effective Practices

Screening Staff Prior to Hiring

The systematic recruitment of high-quality staff was suggested by several countries as an effective means of increasing compliance. Several ACE members noted that testing or screening should be integrated into the recruitment process, with attention to qualities of diligence, non-partisanship and literacy. ACE members and various countries also suggested referring to a list of previous staff and rehiring those with a record of strong performance.

Such practices are currently in use in some surveyed countries. The New Zealand Electoral Commission, for example, administers basic numeracy and literacy tests in the selection process, and maintains backup staff as required. Moldova has also created a Register of Electoral Competencies, including a list of people with knowledge and previous experience related to electoral processes.

Delivering Effective Training

Once recruited, it is important that staff receive proper training. Several countries and ACE members highlighted the importance of training that is timely and responsive to individuals' needs. Some recommended that hands-on training be provided in addition to classroom instruction.

Most countries (78%) currently do include such a component. Costa Rica, for example, has developed thematic workshops for staff based on their roles in the voting process. Workshops incorporate simulations of polling stations, including the materials to be used during the day. They address all procedures, from the opening of the polling station to the final closing minutes and counting of the votes.

Online training was also suggested by some countries, who claimed it could provide greater flexibility and that it may better accommodate the schedules of poll staff. Australia and Estonia are examples of countries that have incorporated e-learning or online training into their curriculum.

Training should also include an evaluation component to ensure that trainees have retained what they have learned. Some countries, such as Namibia, administer situational and written tests after training to assess competence; trainees must pass the tests in order to work.

Finally, those responsible for delivering training should themselves be well trained and qualified. The Gambia and Moldova both mentioned that they provide training sessions for trainers, while in Lesotho all trainers must be qualified adult educators.

Developing Guidance Materials

Nearly all jurisdictions provide guidance materials to staff to assist them in carrying out their duties. Specific examples include Guyana, which provides "desk reminders" to all levels of polling day staff to remind them of their tasks, roles and responsibilities. New Zealand, for its part, has made special efforts to normalize the use of the instruction manuals by repeatedly emphasizing the message "Use your manual" both explicitly and implicitly. (For example, the staff in training videos hold and refer to the manual constantly, highlighting its importance.)

ACE members further emphasized the use of checklists and manuals as an effective practice for ensuring that staff follow instructions.

Live support is also available in some jurisdictions. In Portugal, for instance, staff may contact headquarters at any time through a telephone hotline for information or assistance with whatever situations may arise.

4.3 Monitoring and Auditing

The following figures provide an overview of the practices for monitoring and auditing procedures at the polls among the countries who participated in the survey:

Effective Practices

Monitoring Procedures

Monitoring and supervision of procedures at the polls are relatively common among countries who responded to the survey, with many employing full-time or "roaming" election officials to verify that poll staff are performing their duties to an acceptable standard. Some noted additional supervisory mechanisms in place. For instance, Costa Rica employs a "Body of Delegates," a group of officials who work voluntarily to oversee and coordinate election processes. This body operates in conjunction with assigned electoral advisors to observe procedures at the polls and ensure compliance. In New Zealand, managers and mobile managers are employed to observe staff as they administer their first series of votes to ensure that they are following the procedures correctly. Mobile managers also receive a checklist to complete at each facility to confirm that everything from layout to staff to supplies is in compliance. The mobile manager will pay at least two or three visits to each polling place.

Some ACE members suggested that simply having observers on site is not enough; efforts should also be made to ensure that observers have a clear mandate, adequate training and tools (e.g. checklists) to assist them.

Auditing Procedures

Auditing after an election is also a common practice that focuses on identifying errors and improving the electoral system. In Guyana, a comprehensive post-election analysis is conducted by the Elections Commission with the aim of identifying any issues in the preparation for and administration of the election. Similarly, in Namibia, countrywide surveys are administered after elections in order to identify strengths and weaknesses with the view of improving electoral processes. In the Netherlands, both the Electoral Council and the Lower Chamber of Parliament investigate reports of polling stations about which voters have registered complaints. Party representatives may also be involved in the audit and review process. For example, in Mongolia, one observer affiliated with each party, coalition or independent candidate may obtain copies of quantitative data and images of marked ballot papers at the end of polling day.

Ensuring Enforcement

Portugal applies a comprehensive review of any complaints made regarding the actions of poll staff. Stakeholders are given the opportunity to comment on the substance of any complaints and to make recommendations. They may refer cases to prosecutors if they conclude there is evidence of the practice of willful fraud.

Several ACE members also advocated imposing penalties on staff members for non-compliance with election requirements. They added that this would require a legal framework allowing for such penalties.

Finally, an innovative approach that combines training and monitoring has been initiated in Latvia. A project known as Voluntary Observers allows residents of Latvia aged 16 and over (the age requirement for voting is 18) to apply to be an election observer after completing an online training module. In addition to increasing the integrity of the electoral system, this initiative provides education for young people as well as electors, all of whom are provided access to the online training program.

In Summary

Countries and ACE members highlighted the need for efficient service delivery with simplified procedures for both staff and electors, along with the effective use of technology. The need for training was also emphasized, with many countries delivering extensive hours of instruction for staff, and others employing expert trainers and educators. It was also suggested that guidance materials and reminders be provided for poll staff to use while they work. Finally, countries and experts recommended the use of designated supervisors as well as systematic reviews that aim toward identifying weaknesses in the electoral system and improving training. Many ACE members also suggested imposing sanctions for non-compliance.