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Thread: FAQ: Ensuring Polling Staff Are Fair

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    FAQ: Ensuring Polling Staff Are Fair

    ACE Facilitators, October 23. 2012Translate

    The Question: Ensuring Polling Staff Are Fair

    This question was posted on behalf of Rohan Kembhavi, Elections Canada.

    On May 18th, 2012, a Canadian provincial court ruling declared the May 2011 federal election for the electoral district of Etobicoke-Centre to be “null and void”. The ruling cited a number of administrative errors or inconsistencies on the part of staff at the polls. In response, Elections Canada is undertaking a comprehensive review of voting and election day registration processes. The aim of the review is to identify the factors that can lead to errors, and to determine what may be done to ensure that poll staff consistently follow the instructions they are given.

    To inform our review, we would like to initiate a discussion on methods for ensuring compliance with election law and administrative requirements, and we invite you to share any insights or comments that you may have. Initiatives that are efficient, sustainable and ‘friendly’ to both voters and poll staff (defined as those responsible for interacting with electors during voting and registration activities on Election Day and at advance polls) are of particular interest.

    We would appreciate it if you would submit your comments by November 16, 2012.

    Summary of responses

    It is recommended that polling staff be equipped with a check-list to assist them in following procedures, as well as manuals that clearly stipulate all procedures and requirements. Clear and straightforward election laws and regulations also increases the likelihood that polling staff will comply with them. Efficient election logistics management and effective monitoring of polling activities are also seen as important.

    Emphasis is given to the need for thorough and timely training, including role-play and simulations, and training in local languages. It is advised that trainees' performance is tracked and that training is given according to an individual's needs. Moreover, if all other actors present in the polling station (e.g. political party agents) are also well trained, then polling staff are more likely to carry out their duties in a conscientious manner.

    Several replies advocate stiff penalties for non-compliance with election laws and regulations, in addition to a robust legal framework that provides for such penalties. Recruitment and appointment of polling staff is another key area: In addition to clear appointment procedures for all roles, polling staff should also be sufficiently educated and literate to perform their duties, as well as vetted to ensure political non-partisanship. One practitioner calls for a written test as part of the recruitment process, while another notes the value of maintaining a database of competent polling staff for future elections.

    The international community is urged to play its part and unequivocally condemn non-compliance of polling staff wherever it occurs.

    Examples of related ACE Articles and Resources
    • Recruitment and Training of Voting Station Staff
    Training of Voting Operations Staff

    Names of contributors
    1. Joan Mudindi Vwamu
    2. Kout Sene
    3. Abdul Alim
    4. Carl Dundas
    5. Alimeti Kitutu Nonhon
    6. Amon Emmanuel Chaligha
    7. Innocent Campos
    8. Apithy Fidele Gbenoukpo
    9. Monte McMurchy
    10. Atem Oben Henry Ekpeni
    11. Alamine Simon Addih
    12. Thomas Mathew
    13. Tetteh Ankama Okyne
    14. Adiza Lamien Ouando
    15. Maman Gondah
    16. David Arabambi

    17. Hadija Miiro


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joan Mudindi Vwamu, October 23. 2012Translate

    I would like to contribute to this debate by suggesting a few simple ways of ensuring poll staff comply with election laws and administrative requirements:

    1. First of all during voter registration or election day there should be a CHECK LIST for all the election officials. This check list should have all the steps to be followed and a column to effectively tick when done. A check list is the simplest way of ensuring that procedure is followed and no step is skipped. This should be provided at every level.
    2. There should be manuals for every official explaining what needs to be done. This will act as a reference material for the election officials whenever there is need to reference. This booklets should be simple and easy to read. They should also clearly outline procedures and requirements
    3. The election officials should also be subjected to oath of secrecy to ensure they are answerable to their deeds. This should have consequences stipulated instead the official maliciously or knowingly omit requirements.

    This are among the few simple things that can be done.


    Kout Sene, October 23. 2012Translate

    Dear All,

    According to my experience, during the preparation of the electoral process, the Electoral Body Management, must firstly have elaborated the procedure guide which must describe clearly the whole process of the poll and also the compilation process. from the very beginning until the end of the poll, in the polling station, every action which is launched by the polling staff must be registered in the documents issued on this effect. by filling out the forms the polling staff ensure that they comply with the procedure and the members and the witnesses do aggree with the contents of the filled out documents. These written and signed documents are also a proof to show that they have followed the procedure accordingly. The procedure guide issued by the electoral management body must strictly respect the electoral law that is the main frame for the poll. The document forms that are to fill up, by the polling station staff, are created according to the disposals of electoral law concerning the operations in the polling stations. Copy of the guide of procedure must be disseminated in every polling station.

    Abdul Alim, October 24. 2012Translate

    In many countries of the world, EMBs use Step by Step Guide for the polling staff. For example, in Bangladesh there is a such kind of guide for the Presiding Officer and training is arranged based on this guide. Each and every steps are written in the guide so the polling staff easily follow this in order to avoid any administrative error. The guide is distributed among the polling staff permanently. It is small and activities are described in the local language so that every polling staff can understand and follow this.

    You can develop such kind of guide(s) for polling staff.

    Carl Dundas, October 24. 2012Translate

    My contirbution is as follows:

    In ensuring that polling staff comply with election laws and procedures in order to deliver credible democratic elections the framework should include -

    a) Sound electoral legislative scheme;

    b) Clear and simple election regulations;

    c)Clear and simple election rules and procedures;

    d) Concise implementation instructions for polling and polling assistant officers;

    e) Clear selection and appointment procedures for each category of polling staff;

    f) Stipulation for appointment criteria should include political non-partisanship & academically able;

    g) Training of polling officers must be thorough, timely (not too early or too late) prior to polling day/s;

    h) The foregoing factors should be supported by sound election logistics management, including timelydistribution of sensitive election materials, ballot boxes, ballot papers and results sheets (where applicable);

    i) Monitoring of polling activities at the stations throughout polling day by the EMB suprvisors (where possible) supported by independent observers, (domestic & international);

    j) Where e-voting machines are in use, there would be need to modify appropriately some of the foregoing points.

    Alimeti Kitutu Nonhon, October 24. 2012Translate

    Pour eviter des erreurs administratives dans un bureau de vote par les membres qui y composent, il est souhaitable de s'assurer si les élements suivant sont respecter à savoir si:
    1. La qualité et la methodologie de la formation des agents du bureau de vote respecte le prescrit de la loi en la matière;
    2. Les formateurs qui transmettent la matière aux apprennant sont à la hauteur de leurs tâches;
    3. Le niveau des apprennants correspond au niveau de la matière à trasmettre;
    4. Prendre plus de temps à faire des simullations avec des apprennats en vue de leur permettre de bien assimuler la matière;
    5. Faire le suivi en passant par la supervision et le monitoring efficace à travers la chaine operationnelle le jour du scrutin.
    Tel est notre contribution.
    Alimeti kitutu

    Amon Emmanuel Chaligha, October 24. 2012Translate

    In my view, election officials must be diligent, competent and non partisan. Hence, all personnel handling the election process especially voter registration, voting process, counting and tallying the ballots and announcing the results, all must be trained. Each one must know what to do, when and how. Training is therefore of the essence in this respect.

    Election laws must also make sure that who ever is involved in election management respects the law and if they are found to have violated any section of such law, stiff penalties must be in place as a deterent. An election management code of conduct must be prepared and must be a joint program negotiated and agreed by all stakeholders.

    Furthermore, the process has to be transparent enough to discourage any deliberate misconduct. Thus, candidates, political parties, civil society organizations and international election observers must be allowed to observe/monitor all key components of the election process.

    Innocent Campos, October 24. 2012Translate

    La réussite du scrutin tient assurément au respect du processus électoral notamment des normes et standards électoraux par l'équipe du bureau de vote. Il est évident que ce n'est pas le jour du scrutin que la leçon sur le droit électoral doit être apprise.
    Le kit des membres du bureau de vote prévoit les différents phases à respecter au début pendant et à la clôture des bureaux de vote. Dès lors, les membres du bureau de vote doivent observer les règles commune à toute élection, à savoir :
    - possèder le manuel ou guide pratique des elections;
    - s'assurer, pour le bon déroulement du scrutin, qu'ils ont tout le matériel électoral à jour (le check list du matériel électoral doit rapidement être passé en revue);
    - ouvrir les urnes devant les électeurs présents à l'ouverture du scrutin,
    - mettre les scellés qui doivent être numerotés,
    - s'assurer que la position des urnes et des isoloirs facilite le libre exercice du droit de vote,
    - s'assurer que les lieux du scrutin sont sécurisés ,
    - s'assurer que les observateurs présents dans le bureau de vote sont accrédités( représentants des partis politiques, les domestiques, les internationaux...)
    - tenir le registre des omissions , des votes par procurations ....
    - Bien remplir les Procès Verbaux et s'assurer qu'ils sont signés par tous acteurs prévus à cet effet.
    - Respecter les instructions pour la validations des bulletins, sans compromission ni de parti pris;
    Si l'ensemble de ces règles communes à tout processus électoral sont respectées, cela contribue à donner au scrutin un caractère pacifique, libre et transparent.
    Pour cela, il est important d'être rigoureux dans la sélection des membres du bureau , et de renforcer leur capacité ( intellectuellement, matériellement et financièrement) pour le bon déroulement du vote.

    Apithy Fidele Gbenoukpo, October 24. 2012Translate

    Je ne reviendrai pas sur les normes procedurales que les collegues ont deja bien développé mais il est important de mettre un accent particulier sur la qualité des membres des bureaux de vote en vue du respect scrupuleux de la procédure des opérations de vote. De part mon experience, j'ai noté que l'invalidation de certains surffrages relève souvent d'un mauvais remplissage(ratures,écritures illisibles, surcharges,omissions...) des procès -verbaux par les membres des bureaux de vote.
    Cet état de chose fait suite souvent à un mauvais recrutement des agents de bureaux de vote; il y quelques années, en ma qualité de conseiller électoral d' une commission électorale, j'ai eu la surprise de constater que parmi les agents chargés de l'identification et de la délivrance des cartes d'électeurs, il y avait des artisans ou des personnes déscolarisées dont l'ecriture laissait à désirer. Ces personnes étaient pourtant recrutées par les membres des commissions locales qui ont voulu favoriser leurs parents et/ou amis pour qu'ils bénéficient des primes.
    Il est donc important de sélectionner des personnes pouvant permettre en amont que le processus soit équitable en n' écorchant pas les noms des électeurs (pour la grande majorité des analphabètes), ce qui leur causerait plus tard un préjudice certain.
    Fort de cette experience, j'ai suggéré recemment dans une Région dans laquelle je coordonnais les élections locales en Afrique centrale, un test d'écriture aux personnes désignées d'office par les partis politiques pour etre répartis dans les bureaux de vote en qualité de Présidents, de Sécrétaires et de Membres.
    La Commission Electorale Régionale a suivi mes conseils et à l'issu du test, beaucoup de postulants ont été refusés du fait de leur mauvaises écritures ou de leurs incapacité à calculer le quotien électoral par exemple; la commission électorale a demandé à leurs mandants de pourvoir à leur remplacement.
    La réussite des opérations de vote pour des résultats incontestables et acceptés par toutes les parties en compétition est tributaire du respect de ce principe de sélection adéquate des agents en charge de cette activité très sensible du processus électoral.

    Monte McMurchy, October 24. 2012Translate

    All of which is to say that it is not enough to simply identify an institution that will check to see that the election process has been properly conducted. It also is necessary to establish a set of ground rules regarding when that institution can be called on to involve itself in a dispute, as well as the sorts of matters that institution is to resolve and how it is to go about resolving them. Furthermore, the status of that institution’s decision on any given matter needs to be established; is that decision the last word on the matter, or is there to be some means of checking the checker? In setting these ground rules, there will be an inevitable tension between the desire to ensure procedural correctness in the election (as this process founds the lawmaking authority of the “chosen” representatives) and the need to permit those representatives to get on with actually conduct the business of lawmaking.

    Lederer J, in the Ontario Superior Court decision on the Etobicoke Centre electoral challenge, described this tension as creating a “conundrum”:

    "At its core, [a challenge to an election outcome] concerns the confidence that [citizens of democratic nations] must have in our electoral process. If that confidence is diminished, it follows that our interest in, and respect for, government will be similarly diminished. … . The conundrum arises in that making it too easy to set aside the results of an election may also lead to a loss of confidence in the process."

    Atem Oben Henry Ekpeni, October 25. 2012Translate

    In addition to the points made by Carl and others, I wish to say the training methodology of poll officers should include both physical and power point simulations to give the poll officers an insight of the various situations that may arise during polling operations. Most often best practices are left out in the legal framework. My experience is that most of those appointed claim to know every thing and so they don't read the instructions and the legal provisions on polling. NDI tells us that in the learning process or in a training session 90% of the participants effectively learn when they hear, see, talk and do.

    The appointment and selection process of the various categories of poll staff is also very important. In most cases it is difficult to identify credible, impartial and non partisan citizens. As such if the appointment is not done properly, the credibility of polling operations will be undermined even if the instructions are simplifies as much as possible. As a solution, it important to set up indicators to assess the credibility of those appointed.

    Alamine Simon Addih, October 26. 2012Translate

    The question is to know how a number of administrative errors and inconsistencies on the part of staff at the polls became and how to deal with it?
    In a one day election we have three stapes:
    1. The Days Before ;2. During the day;3. The days After. The days before the election authorities must write the procedural of the vote. Then they must recruit the staffs that have a good profile for the job. Three days training session for the staff about election procedural are very important. For example how to install the polls station? How to collect the results on the paper request? How to count the results? etc.
    The training session is very important for the transparent, credible and peaceful election.
    During the Election Day the members of the polls stations must be present early in the order to install the polls according the election procedural. They may apply the procedural guide about the election. The president of the polls station must verify if all documents are correct and the data collected are coherent.
    The securisation of the results and members of polls stations is very important. The President ensures that the results of the election are transmitted in the time to the electoral authorities.
    The days after you must deal with electoral disputes.
    Thank you a lot for your attention.


    Thomas Mathew, October 28. 2012Translate

    I do not have anything more than others have stated viz. proper guidelines, training, checklist etc. as a general suggestion.

    But to specifically identify the factors that have lead to the errors in the process, due to which the election has been nullfied, we should have an idea about the errors the court has identified.

    ACE Facilitators, October 30. 2012Translate

    This reply is posted on behalf of Rohan Kembhavi, Election Canada.
    Thank you all for your considered responses on how to ensure compliance with election day processes. Some very important points have been raised so far, and we think it would be valuable to explore some of these points in greater detail. Specifically, we are interested in any insights you may have regarding:

    1. Effective ways to train staff to comply with instructions
    2. Effective ways to supervise staff activities at the polls
    3. Effective ways to audit/evaluate poll processes (following an election)
    Thank you for your contributions.

    Tetteh Ankama Okyne, October 31. 2012Translate

    I will suggest that polling agents should be given check list of the activities of polling staff to enable effective work during registration and voting. By this the agents would readily point out mistakes for the necessary corrections to be done before any court action will occur.

    Adiza Lamien Ouando, October 31. 2012Translate

    Regarding these four points, i would suggest that:

    1. Effective ways to train staff to comply with instructions

    It is important to have a gender responsive friendly and accessible strategy of training: training people in small homogenous groups rather than big diversified groups that don't allow people to ask questions because they don't want to appear as ignorant or speaking too much( in some cultures not speaking is an evidence of beeing serious). The use of local languages rather than official languages should be the rule. To achive this institutions supporting electoral system should include supporting training in local languages with a focus on electoral vocabulary. After the training provide participants with a simple friendly note book, recorders or short videos that they can see after the training and discuss with other people. Systematize follow up with refreishments after the trainings. General institutions don't like to pay for this important activity that ensure that the trining will bear fruits.

    2. Effective ways to supervise staff activities at the polls

    It is important design tools for both supervision and audit before the elections take place, test them in various stakeholders before adopting them. room should be provided for staff to ask questions anytime and get responses to their questions. There should be a good atmosphere between staff so that they are mutual supporters to each other regardless to their political parties

    3. Effective ways to audit/evaluate poll processes (following an election)

    As for supervision, audit should be designed in a gender responsive and participatory approach so that the tools are simple and friendly to creat good conditions of communication. Thes tools in all languages spoken by the stakeholders beeing tested before. Another important point is the spirit of the audit: to put lights on errors but also be an opportunity of capacity building and improvement. Taken like this this activity will be led withhout adding tension to tension.

    the tools electoral process should be cut is small phases and tools designed for phase.

    Like supervision, the audit teams should be equally balanced with men, women ,young boys, young girls, old women , old men.
    Thank you


    Maman Gondah, November 08. 2012Translate

    Le respect par les agents électoraux des lois et procédures électorales est le gage pour l’organisation d’élections libres, transparentes, équitables et inclusives.
    De prime abord, ces lois et procédures électorales doivent être disponibles et accessibles a tous en temps opportun.
    La sélection des agents électoraux ne doit souffrir d’aucune complaisance. Le personnel qualifie doit être place a la place qu’il faut. Le personnel selectionne doit recevoir une formation consequente, formation qui doit intervenir en temps opportun. Au cours de cette formation qui doit en plus comprendre un résume succinct des leçons apprises des scrutins précédents consignées dans un document à ajouter dans le lot de manuels de membres de bureaux de vote.
    Une base de données doit être constituée au cours des différents scrutins base de données qui doit servir de référence pour l recrutement du personnel devant servir pour les scrutins à venir. Le personnel électoral doit faire l’objet d’évaluation après les scrutins et la base de données mise à jour. Seuls le personnel ayant été bien évalué peut se voir confier de responsabilités lors des scrutins à venir.
    La perfection n’étant pas de ce monde, c’est a ce rythme qu’avec l’amélioration des performance des agents électoraux que nous améliorerons progressivement les opérations électorales et par voie de conséquence le respect des lois et procédures électorales par les agents électoraux commis aux bureaux de vote.
    Maman Gondah

    David Arabambi, November 11. 2012Translate

    Non compliance with election law and administrative requirements by poll staff may be viewed from two sides. Intentional and unintentional. Intentional may be done to favor or disfavor a particular party or candidate for many reasons known to the poll staff. On the other hand, unintentional may be as a result of ignorance of what the election law and administrative requirements actually say. Wrong or improper interpretation of election law may be very much unintentional.

    Intentional non compliance can be reduced significantly by spelling out heavy penalties for poll staff who are found guilty to serve as a deterrent to future offenders. Also, poll staff should be thoroughly screened to know to what extent they are connected to political parties and contesting candidates.

    Unintentional non compliance poll staff need to be thoroughly trained. Party agents, political parties and their candidates as well as voters must also be trained to understand election law and administrative requirements.If all participants know what the rules are, the poll staff will take extra caution to follow the law accordingly.

    Training however may be of little effect if it is not stratified according to the categories stated above. The EMBs should limit their training to poll staff and political parties. Political parties in turn,should seek for appropriate representatives from different categories of participants stated above to train and enlighten themselves on the rules and regulations guiding voters registration and elections. Mass media should also be effectively used by different groups mentioned in paragraph three.

    Hadija Miiro, November 24. 2012Translate

    • Electoral Officials should be assigned unique identification numbers and a database developed to track the training previously attained and what further training is required for individuals and categories of electoral officials. Subsequent training should be based on proper needs assessments. The tendency is always to train massively without reference to who received or needs what.

    • Need to track performance. Subsequent recruitment should take into consideration past performance. Some individuals are not trainable. Others are perpetual non performers.
    • Training of election officials should be planned well in advance leaving ample time for assessment and refresher training sessions

    • Recruitment should be systematic based on well defined criteria.

    • The language, visuals etc should be customized to suit the environment and local needs. In some cases, international advisers come with procedures and jurgon from other electoral management systems/environments and simply impart/impose these on the local populace. Additionally, there is tendency to copy and paste . Innovation is absolutely necessary

    • In many election administrations, the electoral laws do not bar candidates who are convicted of electoral malpractices to stand in the re-election. Corrective measures though documented are not always practiced. The conviction against the EMB should be extended to the individual officials involved. These should be barred from working with the EMB for specified periods depending on the gravity of the offense.

    • As long as some levels of electoral malpractices and breach of electoral procedures are still acceptable, compliance to the electoral law and administrative procedures will remain difficult. The International Community should come up boldly on non compliance issues instead of always concluding that malpractices or breach of electoral laws and procedures though rampant were not sufficient to nullify the elections. The focus is sometimes on preserving international relations, or on budget considerations.
    • Both domestic and international laws that protect EMBs that are bold enough to cancel incredible electoral processes should be strengthened and observed along with sanctions for non compliance.


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