The Gambia is due to undertake a new voter registration exercise in 2021, in the foreseeable months. While the actual dates are not yet known, IFES has been working closely with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in their preparations for the voter registration process. With this electoral process in mind, IFES worked with the IEC to train 24 regional electoral officers from across the entire country along with headquarters senior officials to prepare them for the voter registration at the Paradise Hotel in Banjul. A 3-day BRIDGE workshop (15 to 17 Feb) combined voter registration activities from multiple modules to cater for the local needs. An agenda drawing from the operations planning, gender, inclusion, voter and civic education modules were linked to the core voter registration module for the three days. This builds on an earlier workshop that was conducted in March 2020, which covered more basic elements of voter registration. The event also presented an opportunity for the draft voter registration operations plan to be discussed and implementation aspects to be detailed via the training.
While the original workshop was planned as a blend of virtual and in-classroom facilitation, a last-minute change resulted in the training being facilitated entirely virtually. With a multi-camera setup, along with in-class microphones in Banjul, the facilitator; based in Washington DC, was able to facilitate the entire event remotely and in conjunction with a few in-class assistants and one online support staffer daily. The training was conducted via Zoom, with the active usage of Mentimenter for expectations, quick quizzes to gauge understanding and end of day reflections. While power-outages routinely interrupted training on a daily basis, these were not too disruptive; being less than 5 minutes in nature, and the internet was very stable throughout the training. US-based technical support proved invaluable when technical challenges required troubleshooting and served as a valuable backup for any Banjul-based technical issues. On the ground support from the IFES country representative, along with the camera-crew, additional technical support from the USA and enthusiastic IEC staff participation made the training very memorable for all.
Participants were extremely enthusiastic throughout the training and very engaged and participatory. Small group work was particularly rewarding, and the training provided a valuable opportunity to strengthen not only skill-levels of voter registration, but also the relationship between headquarters and regional staff. Participants were particularly focused on discussing how best to increase participation of marginalized voters, along with the training of registration officials, quality assurance, risk management and evidence-based planning. The participation of the Chairperson, individual Commissioners and the CEO of the IEC contributed to the success of the training. Of significant benefit was the ability for regional officers to discuss the challenges that emerge when implementing operational plans in the field and adaptations. Participants left the training excited about how they will be applying their new-found lessons to the voter registration exercise in the field.