The success of any electoral event relies on the efficient organization and conduct of the core activities of polling, counting and results tabulation. Each of these processes feeds into the next and in turn their structure and format are determined by the particular electoral system and details such as ballot design. 

For many voters, polling is the extent of their involvement in the electoral process and it is therefore critical that this part of the democratic process is transparent, simple and organized to meet the voters’ needs while protecting the integrity of the election. As the physical manifestation of democratic elections, polling typically receives the most attention from the media and observers. Poorly organized or overly complicated polling procedures can have negative impacts on the overall perception of the integrity of the elections, as well as affecting the conduct of the count.

Vote counting is one of the most crucial stages in the election process. Failure to complete the count and transmit results in a quick, transparent and accurate manner can jeopardize public confidence in the elections and will directly affect whether candidates and political parties accept the final results. Frequently, the importance of detailed planning, training, and organization is overlooked, or is considered of secondary importance when it comes to organizing polling stations and conducting the count. There are situations when a well run electoral process is severely compromised because of problems experienced during polling or vote counting.

The final step in the electoral process is the official announcement of the election results by the electoral administrators. To safeguard integrity, the results must accurately reflect the total vote, taking into account decisions on disputed ballots. Tampering with the official results may be a last-ditch effort to subvert the outcome of an election. Safeguards such as monitoring by observers and monitors can deter tampering with the results. Speedy announcement of the official results is also important. The more time that passes between counting and release of the results, the more time there is to tamper with the results. A long delay in the release of results, even if they are accurate, may feed suspicions that will damage the credibility of the results when they are finally released.

This module specifically considers different aspects and approaches to Polling, Counting and Results. Of all the BRIDGE modules, this is perhaps the most interactive as it uses a variety of activity and approaches to draw out important lessons and learning outcomes.  Activities are generic in the sense that they should be applicable to a variety of different polling, counting and results procedures. The principles of transparency, accuracy, detailed planning and service provision to voters are emphasized. There is also a great deal of hands-on learning through the design of polling station layout, drafting of results and reconciliation forms and numerous action plans for releasing results, training staff and responding to the demands of observers.

Sample agendas (for half, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5-day durations) have been designed that examine the concepts of Polling, Counting and Results as thoroughly as possible, given time constraints. In total, there are some 45-50 hours of activities for facilitators to choose from – most of which have been field tested.

The subjects covered in this module include:

  • Polling: Includes all of the procedures, security and logistical preparations in and around polling locations on Election Day. The emphasis is on the different actors in the polling locations and their respective roles on Election Day. By understanding the polling dynamic, participants will be able to organize a smooth operation. Problem solving is developed through the resolution of a number of challenging and polling scenarios. A variety of polling materials are used during the activities.
  • Counting: Polling leads directly into counting and participants are encouraged to develop an understanding of the complexity of accurate ballot accounting. The importance of transparency, accuracy and timeliness are emphasized. Counting procedures are drafted and principles for determining ballot validity are discussed. Finally, there is an understanding of the key elements of conducting the count and its implications for results.
  • Results: Determining results efficiently and developing strategies for communicating them are important principles.  A number of challenges and scenarios are considered to better prepare participants for the announcement of results.
  • Post-Election Evaluation and Follow Up: The importance of post-election evaluations is emphasized and strategies for assessing the performance of election administrations are discussed.

As with other BRIDGE modules, practical considerations are given to program design and implementation such as methods of monitoring and evaluation and the development of timelines and detailed plans.

The module makes use of a number of interactive approaches such as role-playing, group work, games, product design and problems solving scenarios. Successful presentation will require full involvement of the participants in a number of culturally appropriate activities. The module is an excellent resource for EMB planners, trainers, managers and developers of policies and procedures.


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