About the Program
As part of the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) and supported by the United States Agency for International Development, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) worked on addressing some of the obstacles to free and fair elections in North Macedonia. Since the formation of the new State Election Commission (SEC) at the end of 2015, IFES provided targeted electoral assistance and expertise in key areas of the electoral reform process. IFES also supported the SEC in administering the early parliamentary elections in December 2016 and provided assistance for the local elections on October 15, 2017, (round 1) and October 29, 2017 (round 2).
Cross-Checking of the Voter List
The Information Technology Expert Group created within this project facilitated checking the records of 1,812,156 voters registered in the Ministry of Interior’s database against 10 different institutions’ databases to identify possible inconsistencies and questionable records. The results of these cross-checks provided a base for the first-ever field inspections, administrative checks and active verification of inconsistent records conducted in North Macedonia, improving the quality, accuracy and scope of the voter register.
Voter Information Management System
A long-term, sustainable solution that will allow the SEC to manage the Voter Register and fulfill its obligations under the Electoral Code, the Voter Information Management System software will replace the temporary undertaking by the State Statistical Office. It will allow the SEC to synchronize data between the Ministry of Interior and the SEC’s Voter Register; update voter information records; register new voters; track changes made to records for auditing purposes; and generate accurate voter lists per electoral district, municipality or polling station. For the local elections, IFES also added photos and different local languages to the voter lists.
Online Voter List Application
IFES assisted the SEC to develop an online voter list application that allows voters to review their names, surnames and addresses. During online and in-person verification of voter lists ahead of the local elections, more than 220,000 Macedonians used the application to verify their data in the voter register, but only 230 corrections were requested. Thus, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights acknowledged growing confidence in the integrity of the voter register.
Training and Capacity Building
To strengthen its education capacities, in 2016, IFES supported a training-of-trainers program for 18 staff identified by the SEC by giving them the knowledge and abilities to improve the training materials and delivery. This pool of trainers went on to facilitate workshops for 560 members of Municipal Election Commissions ahead of the December 2016 elections and 36,000 Electoral Board members ahead of the October 2017 elections. In June 2017, IFES also supported the establishment of a Learning Center on SEC premises to provide an enabling environment for the training of election workers.
To improve SEC performance and effectiveness, IFES worked with the SEC to conduct a comprehensive functional review. This included the assessment of relevant legal and institutional frameworks and the realization of its competencies through desk research, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and analysis involving all levels of the SEC, including its regional offices. The results serve as a basis for SEC to revise its structure and staffing needs to better respond to the electoral environment. Furthermore, IFES worked with the SEC to develop a new Strategic Plan for 2017-20 that defines priority areas and strategic directions for the commission’s work going forward.