New Policy Report: Professional Electoral Management


New Policy report

Building Professional Electoral Management

By Jeffrey Karp, Alessandro Nai, Miguel Angel Lara Otaola and Pippa Norris

University of Sydney, January 2017

Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) are the central agencies responsible for running elections in countries around the world.

This report, developed by EIP in conjunction with the Association of World Electoral Bodies (A-WEB), examines how to strengthen professional electoral administration.

Electoral management bodies (EMBs) are the front-line agencies for electoral governance. Ideally for contests to meet global norms, electoral officials should ensure that they deliver public services meeting professional international standards. 

As International IDEA suggests, electoral management should seek to follow certain fundamental guiding principles, including independence, impartiality, integrity, transparency, efficiency, professionalism and service-mindedness.

Yet meeting these ideal standards generates major challenges. These organizations are typically responsible for a wide range of tasks, which may include determining who is eligible to vote, who or what appears on the ballot, polling and conducting and tabulating the votes. EMBs may also be involved with the regulation and oversight of campaign finance, the registration of political parties, the role of the news media during campaigns, electoral boundaries, civic education, and dispute resolution.

Consequently, EMBs serve multiple functions central for the smooth conduct of elections, for the legitimacy of democratic institutions, and for peaceful transitions in power. It is important to understand the capacity of EMBs to fulfill these functions – and the limits arising from limited technological, human and financial resources.

Evidence and methods

To understand these issues, the Electoral Learning and Capacity Training project (ELECT) collected information from three sources of data.

(i) The ELECT Organizational Survey about 35 diverse EMBs.

(ii) The ELECT Staff Survey gathered evidence from individual EMB staff working within two detailed case-studies South Korea and Mexico.

(iii) EMB performance was assessed through the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity expert survey (PEI-4.5).

The structure, professional ethos, and capacity of EMB's

The ELECT organization survey was completed by senior level managers in 35 diverse EMBs from around the world. These displayed varied performance, according to PEI-4.5. The data was used to construct measures of their formal structural independence, professional ethos, and the functional capacities.

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