An election or direct democracy poll—such as a referendum—is often one of the largest single activities that are ever organized in a country. It is a very complex administrative task, implemented in a politically charged atmosphere.
The Electoral Management Design module brings together the knowledge and expertise that has been gathered worldwide about election management bodies (EMBs), their roles and functions, and the organization, financing and management of election administration. From a practical point of view it attempts to address some of the challenges faced by many EMBs and election administrators around the world. It does so by bringing together global field experiences in electoral administration, and by presenting best-practice solutions in a non-prescriptive and user-friendly way, and by highlighting examples of practices which have proved to be successful and of those that have been less successful.
The Management module looks at different models of electoral administration and recognizes that different structures may be appropriate in different contexts, and does not in general seek to be normative or prescriptive beyond the basic characteristics sought in good electoral processes—freedom, fairness, equity, integrity, voting secrecy, transparency, effectiveness, sustainability, service-mindedness, efficiency, impartiality and accountability. Similarly the module addresses management design issues that may have an impact on stakeholder confidence in and the scope for independent action by election administrators. In doing so, it takes into account the entire electoral cycle, not only the highly visible time close to polling. This module also highlights the importance of post-election audit and evaluation and emphasizes the need for electoral administrations to be effective, sustainable and professional.
This module is based and constructed on the International IDEA handbook ‘Electoral Management Design’. Just like the handbook, the modules prime objective is to provide practical information in a form that is easily accessible and to the greatest extent possible be free of theorizing and electoral or management jargon. The Management module is a useful training tool not only to those establishing institutions involved in managing elections, those in newly established electoral institutions, and those in emerging democracies. To those looking for means of assessing performance and improving administration in well-established electoral management bodies, this module also offers a wide range of experiences and information on good practices. Equally, the Management module is a valuable resource for everyone engaged in the process of building sustainable capacity to conduct successful electoral processes that are perceived as legitimate. It provides useful data to all with an interest or stake in electoral administration—whether in governments, political parties, the media or civil society organizations, or as interested observers of political and electoral matters.
Finally this module is also the basis of a call to action, for EMBs and for other stakeholders. It aims to give professional guidance to establish reform and/or consolidate genuinely autonomous, neutral and professional electoral administration for the long term. Electoral assistance providers for example have often groped in the dark as programmes have been written for support of new electoral institutions. The realization is growing that for electoral assistance to be effective it needs to be viewed through a long-term development perspective and not as an activity driven by an individual electoral event. The choices of donors, too, can now be made on the basis of a deeper understanding of the basic principles of election administration design and of the many options available.