Strengthening Electoral Integrity
While a vast majority of countries now hold legislative elections, ensuring the quality of democratic governance has serious implications for legitimacy, public satisfaction, and stability. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) challenges the academic community to continually review international standards and design research projects aimed at increasing their effectiveness in development projects. Our programming aims to increase electoral integrity by working with election administrators and other stakeholders to improve and enforce campaign finance regulations, develop appropriate legal structures and effective election complaint adjudication systems, and strengthen institutional ability to proactively combat electoral fraud through risk assessments and strategic fraud control plans.
To that end, IFES is an active participant in the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), an international network of scholars and practitioners focused on addressing challenges to the integrity of elections. Four members of the IFES community – President and CEO Bill Sweeney, Director of the Center for Applied Research and Learning Chad Vickery, Regional Director for Europe and Asia Vasu Mohan, and Applied Research and Learning Manager Erica Shein – participated in the seventh EIP Workshop, held on September 2 in San Francisco. This EIP workshop focused on best practices and strategic interventions to improve electoral integrity.
During the EIP plenary session, Vickery and Shein presented selected findings from “Election Audits: International Principles that Protect Election Integrity,” a paper on international standards for election audits published in collaboration with Democracy International in April 2015.
The presentation focused on the importance of predetermination and consistent application of procedures and rules in post-election audits. Audit standards and procedures that are not clearly defined in advance of an election enable ad hoc and arbitrary implementation, decreasing legitimacy and eroding public trust in the process and its outcome. This principle was further illuminated by the results of an IFES survey of international observers of the 2014 post-presidential election audit in Afghanistan. IFES found significant gaps in preparation and understanding of procedures by audit officials, resulting in inconsistent and inadequate application of procedures.
Sweeney and Mohan also participated in the conference. Mohan led a breakout discussion on methods for evaluating technical assistance projects, a topic of critical importance to the democracy and governance community. IFES participants also discussed potential partnerships for research and evaluation with scholars attending the conference in the areas of electoral security, election violence, and disability rights.
Other workshop panels focused on strengthening electoral administration, improving transparency, legal reforms, the role of the international community in promoting electoral integrity, campaign finance, and the media.