Katherine Ellena, Advisor, Legal
As the International Foundation for Electoral Systems' (IFES) legal advisor, Katherine Ellena is responsible for providing strategic leadership and technical assistance to IFES’ work on legal and regulatory frameworks for elections, electoral dispute resolution and electoral integrity. Ellena serves as the technical lead for IFES’ Legal Framework group and contributes to research initiatives and the development of tools and resources for IFES’ legal service line, as well as applied research initiatives in areas such as electoral leadership and cybersecurity in elections.
Ellena provides direct technical legal assistance to IFES’ field programs globally and has worked with election commissions, tribunals, courts, government interlocutors and civil society in Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, Kenya, the Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sint Maarten, Sri Lanka, The Gambia and Ukraine. This has included direct assistance to legislative and regulatory drafting – including a suite of new election laws in Nepal following the passage of the 2015 Constitution – as well as training of lawyers, commissioners and civil society stakeholders. She also spent two years in New Delhi, India, with the IFES Gender and Law program.
Ellena has published various opinion pieces, blogs and academic papers, along with a paper on electoral integrity and election audits, a chapter on measuring effective remedies for fraud and administrative malpractice in the American Bar Association book, International Election Remedies, and a guide on the hierarchy of laws for election practitioners who are developing, interpreting and implementing legal frameworks for elections. New research papers on effective management of elections disputes and violations and cybersecurity in elections were recently published, and an additional paper on election annulments is forthcoming. Ellena also recently revamped the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) module on election dispute resolution.
Prior to joining the Center, she was a senior program manager with IFES’ Europe and Asia department, responsible for $40 million electoral reform programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This included managing a program supporting the newly-established Independent Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan during the 2014 presidential elections, and a comprehensive electoral support program in Pakistan in the wake of the historic 2013 general elections
Before joining IFES, Ellena was the acting vice president of the United States New Zealand Council, supporting deeper political, trade and security connections between the U.S. and New Zealand. She was also a research associate with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis, developing a global counter terrorism oral history archive with both U.S. and international special operations forces.
Prior to this, she was a diplomat with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on politics and security in Southeast Asia, which included two years with the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Ellena holds a master’s degree in law with honors from the University of Canterbury, bachelor’s degrees in law and philosophy from the University of Canterbury, and a diploma for graduates in international development from the University of London’s London School of Economics.
Ellena was admitted as a barrister and solicitor to the High Court of New Zealand in 2004 and is a member of the American Bar Association, International Bar Association, and New Zealand Law Society.