The enthusiasm of the residents of Heyi Village to take part in this election and the seriousness with which the election officials of the village approached their task were clearly apparent to IRI’s observation delegation. The successful implementation of the first-ever direct election in Heyi Village is a significant achievement, and we offer the following observations for village-level elections throughout Yunnan Province.

We were impressed by the use of educational posters to instruct the villagers on their rights and responsibilities in electing a village committee, and the relatively small number of invalid ballots among those cast in the election.

The main challenge for any election administrator is to engender knowledgeable voters. Village officials should make sure that civic education continues even after elections have been completed. Voters should be encouraged to actively participate in and observe every stage of an election, including the counting, recording and reconciliation of ballots, in order to ensure the integrity of all procedures.

From what we observed, the basic framework for elections was clearly in place, and full attention had been given to implementing the fundamentals of an election. At the same time, future elections should endeavor to include the following:

Secret Ballot. We were very impressed by the design of the ballot and its instructions for use.

According to the national election law, the procedures to determine the final list of names on the ballot must be open and must fully reflect the will of the villagers. Election officials should not be responsible for determining the final list of candidates.

Election officials should endeavor to prevent group voting (people marking their ballots while still sitting in their village groups). Group voting undermines the secrecy of voting. While secret voting booths were present, we observed that they were not used by any voters. To ensure that voters are not deprived of their right to a secret ballot, ballots should be distributed one by one to voters who display their registration cards immediately before using the secret voting booths. Several provinces in China currently employ this method. Some provinces have also abolished the practice of proxy voting, in adherence with the principle of “one man, one vote.”

Election Organization. An overcrowded election area can create delays and confusion during voting. Election officials should ensure that there is sufficient room for the proper execution of election procedures, in particular the use of secret voting booths. Some provinces in China have used multiple polling stations in rural and urban areas where populations have been large or where more than one natural village has been involved in electing a villagers’ committee. For example, in Heyi, the use of three polling stations, one in each natural village, might have allowed villagers to cast ballots in a more timely and efficient manner. The three polling stations would have the same hours of operation and the same voting procedures. Counting of ballots would take place in a central counting location. This would require candidates to campaign in advance of the election (see below).

Counting Procedures. Success in an election is determined by the number of votes cast for a candidate, and therefore votes cast against a candidate are irrelevant. In most countries, a single mark on the ballot indicates the voter’s choice among the candidates, and there is no mark made to indicate a vote against any candidate.

When all votes have been cast and election officials have announced the close of polls, secured ballot boxes should be opened and all ballots reconciled against the number of ballots handed out before voting. Under no circumstances should there be more ballots in the boxes than were originally distributed. Before counting begins, an examination should be performed on all ballots to separate out those that are invalid or questionable.

Once counting begins, a standardized counting method should be employed in which all votes for a candidate are recorded. A unified counting procedure ensures accurate results. We were impressed by certain teams of ballot counters in Heyi Village who used an effective method of “singing” votes: the singer waited for the writer to repeat what the singer had said before moving on to the next ballot, thereby ensuring that accurate counting was not sacrificed for the sake of speed.

The training of election officials is critical to the success of any election. The highest consideration for all election officials should be safeguarding the integrity of the election. Equal emphasis should be placed on the proper administration of the ballot and the accurate reconciliation and counting of ballots cast.

Training for election officials will ensure the efficiency of elections, including good organization, swift ballot distribution, accurate counting procedures (for example, determining factors for invalid ballots), and full understanding on the part of voters of their responsibilities on election day. We fully agree with Mr. Jiang’s recommendation to include a mock election and other role-playing techniques in training programs for election officials.

Candidates should campaign to provide voters with information about their positions on issues of concern to villagers. Campaigning can take the form of public meetings (held in advance of election day), door-to-door visits with villagers, and posters outlining candidates’ backgrounds, qualifications and positions. In some provinces in China, posters are displayed in polling stations to provide voters with information on candidates.

While we recognize and appreciate some of the cultural aspects that may impede campaigning, all candidates should be available to voters to answer questions and concerns.

In conclusion, we extend our gratitude to the people and officials of Heyi Village, Heqing County, Dali Prefecture, and Yunnan Province for their generosity and warmth during our visit.

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