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Strengthening Electoral Processes

Ensuring transparent, open and competitive elections that all voters can participate in free from intimidation.

Why Our Work Matters

Democratic elections are the cornerstone of a representative government, the best way to ensure the peaceful alternation of power between competing political groups and the only means of choosing leaders based on the will of citizens. To be democratic, elections must be recurring, transparent, open and competitive. We strengthen electoral processes in transitioning democracies through election monitoring, voter education and initiatives supporting electoral reform and the participation of marginalized groups.

What Our Work Does

To help strengthen electoral processes and ensure elections are open and transparent we:

  • Carry out international election observation missions and assessments;
  • Ensure political parties are prepared to participate in and have the tools needed to observe Election Day voting and the vote counting processes.
  • Support voter education initiatives to ensure citizens understand their rights and role in the electoral process and have information to make informed decisions at the ballot box.
  • Increase the participation of marginalized groups in the election process; and
  • Support electoral reform efforts to improve the quality of electoral democracy.

International Observation and Assessment Missions
Holding elections does not mean a country is democratic; however, no country can be a democracy without them.  In a democracy, credible elections are transparent, open and competitive and the ballots are secret. 

To ensure elections meet these standards, we conduct pre-election assessment missions, monitor elections and publish reports on election outcomes.  Our election monitoring includes long-term observation that examines pre-election campaigning, media coverage, electoral administration and the post-election period to gain a holistic perspective of the entire electoral process.

We endorse and follow the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observers and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers that was commemorated at the United Nations on October 27, 2005.  We also endorse the Declaration of Global Principles for Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and the important role citizen observers play in ensuring transparent, open elections.

Through international election observation missions and assessments, IRI has monitored 144 elections around the globe. Click here to see a list of the elections we have observed and, when available, statements and reports we have issued.

Ensure Political Parties Can Participate in the Process
To ensure election transparency, political parties, candidates and civil society, through their representatives, must be able to observe the voting and ballot counting process.  These efforts build confidence in the process and provide peaceful mechanisms through which complaints can be registered and adjudicated.

We offer workshops around the world to political party and candidate poll watchers and domestic nonpartisan observers, giving them the tools needed to carry out their role in the process.  Our workshops inform participants on electoral laws, and the rules and regulations governing the voting and counting process, ensuring poll watchers and observers know their rights and responsibilities. 

For Ukraine’s 2014 presidential election, we trained more than 4,500 political party poll watchers who monitored voting at polling stations throughout the country for their respective candidates – a key component to ensuring the election was open and transparent.

Voter Education Initiatives Empower Citizens to Make Informed Decisions
An informed electorate is critical to holding democratic elections.  Working with local civil society partners, we support voter education campaigns that raise voter awareness of the importance of elections, responsibilities of citizenship and mechanics of voting.  Through newspaper advertising, billboards, collateral materials, radio, television and events, we ensure voters have the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box. 

Increase the Participation of Marginalized Groups
All parts of a society must have the opportunity to participate as voters and candidates regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, education or sexual orientation.  And we encourage civil society and political parties to reach out to marginalized groups and engage them in the election process. 

Our programs promote the participation of groups who traditionally have been excluded from elections, including women, youth, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT communities and people with disabilities.  Our efforts ensure all citizens have a voice at the ballot box.

Electoral Reform
Through our programs, we bring stakeholders from political parties, civil society and election administration bodies together to build consensus around electoral reforms that improve elections, thereby improving the quality of electoral democracy. 

In Nigeria, IRI works with civil society, government bodies and political parties to institutionalize the use of consultative forums to address concerns stakeholders have about Nigeria’s election processes.  Through these discussions, political stakeholders can build consensus and mutual confidence and respect among participating groups.

Our Innovative Approach

Monitoring and Evaluation Strengthens Our Programs

We use creative yet rigorous data collection methods to support our election monitoring work that include both quantitative surveys/observation protocols and qualitative sources such as interviews. Our monitoring and evaluation specialists review election monitoring tools to improve ease of interpretation and use among our monitoring teams, and ensure the creation of consistent, aggregatable data. Data collection efforts are tailored to each election to ensure information is both relevant and accurate.

Because election climates are particularly fast-paced and developments happen quickly, we emphasize prompt analysis of data gather throughout the pre-election period and Election Day so that our monitoring teams can take into account emerging trends and issues. We also embed monitoring and evaluation specialists within our election monitoring missions to provide team leaders with accurate data in real-time that enable us to evaluate the conduct of elections and share our observations and findings with the public in a timely manner.

Cutting-Edge Technology Enhances Monitoring Efforts

We employ cutting-edge technologies to enhance our election monitoring efforts. Through use of an industry award winning integrated voice response (IVR) system, we are able to obtain real-time information during elections in order to spot trends in the voting process and advise monitors of deficiencies or concerns. We have also piloted a proprietary mobile application for use on tablets and smart phones that allows our monitors to capture real-time data over the course of Election Day.

International Partnerships Provide a Diverse Perspective

We draw international election monitors from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and experiences recognizing no one country has a monopoly on democracy. Our monitors are volunteers and support our mission globally, and include current and former public officials, thought leaders, prominent private sector leaders, elections experts and regional experts. Their varied backgrounds give our efforts a diverse set of perspectives to draw upon and make judgments about the conduct of elections.

The generous support of individuals and corporations enable IRI staff and volunteers to carry out its mission around the world. With your help, IRI will continue its mission of hope for decades to come.

IRI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are tax deductible

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