A while back I shared my draft article on election standards and the Internet commissioned by IFES/USAID. The final version, with a few updates, is now available from:
What do you think must be done online by democratic actors to hold free and fair elections now that we exist in the Internet-era? My take starts below.
Here is the introduction and first part of the paper:
Challenging the Norms and Standards of Election Administration:
Election Management Bodies and Use of the Internet
By Steven Clift
The goal of this paper is to establish new proposals for international electoral standards1 for the use of the Internet during election campaigns (outside of voting).
Election administrators and governments need to decide how they will use the Internet to improve election processes and better inform voters in the near term regardless of the complexity and controversy surrounding Internet voting. As has been seen in elections around the world, the influence of the Internet is growing.
The recommendations2 proposed in this paper attempt to answer the following questions:
1. How should the Internet be used to support better election processes and informed voting?
2. What content and services must be online to ensure free and fair elections?
The emerging role of the Internet surrounding elections deserves close attention. It may be that changes in campaigning and citizen action online, rather than e-voting, present the real opportunities for – or challenges to – democratic transformation.
Once documented and shared, best practices can bring existing democratic freedoms and electoral standards to life where applied. However, while most election-related benefits from online activities will be gained through best practices, a standards established model for “must-have” and “should-have” online elements is proposed. As more citizens come online, electoral management bodies (EMBs) will see their online responsibilities increase. Clearly, these responsibilities will arrive sooner in “wired” countries with active online populations, but they will eventually arrive everywhere. Creating a shared body of best practices now can benefit all democracies over time.
II. Two Proposed Internet-Era Electoral Standards
Two key proposals for information-age electoral standards deserve special attention and debate. They inform all of the recommendations below:
1. All information produced, compiled, disseminated, or disclosed to hold a democratic election as established by national laws and international electoral standards must be publicly accessible on the Internet in a standard, authoritative format.
2. Voter privacy must be established to cover all voter actions online (seeking information about political candidates and issues; communicating with family, friends, and members of private associations about elections or governance; and voting).
The need for the first standard is intuitive. In order to build trust in the electoral process, promote voter participation, encourage informed voting, and ensure legal compliance, EMBs must make public all information about election standards, laws, regulations, and voter education programs. In addition, existing electoral standards require broad and timely access to this information. It is almost impossible to conceive of any democratic purpose served by keeping such information offline.
The second proposed standard opens an area of great debate. The Internet era provides many ways to track individual behavior; however, to ensure continued participation in the electoral system, voters must feel they can freely explore the raw materials of political thought without fearing public exposure by those with state, media, or economic power.
1 Key documents establishing “electoral standards” include International IDEAâ€™s “International Electoral Standards: Guidelines for reviewing the legal framework of elections (www.idea.int/publications/electoral_guidelines.pdf) and the OSCEâ€™s â€œExisting Commitments for Democratic Elections in OSCE Participating States’ (www.osce.org/odihr/?page=publications&div=topics&topic=elections). These documents extensively reference the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (www.unhchr.ch/udhr/index.htm), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and related treaties (www.unhchr.ch/html/intlinst.htm), and the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development (www.un.org/esa/socdev/wssd/agreements).
2 As intended, the recommendations in this paper are proposed exclusively by the author, Steven Clift. This paper contains updates from January 2007.
For the full paper see: