How to detect potential election irregularities


Image courtesy of Chris Eaves and released under Creative Commons

In its Election Reporting Handbook for journalists the International Federation for Journalists (IFJ) sets out a list of what journalists should look out for when covering elections.

The list, contained in chapter four of the handbook, entitled "Surviving The Election", is taken from the guidelines set out by The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in the United States.

The five points highlighted below were selected by the IFJ as the signs journalists should look out for when monitoring the election process. 

1: Pressure

Unfair attempts to influence voters or election officials through bribes, employment promises, threats, intimidation, systematic disruption of the election process, unbalanced media access

2: Barriers

Disenfranchisement of voters through: unreasonably restricting the registration process, unreasonably restricting candidate eligibility, failing to properly list registered voters, failing to distribute voter identification cards, requiring unreasonable supplemental voter identification, systematic complication of the election process, incomplete distribution of election materials

3: Fraud

Fraud, such as stealing ballots, stuffing ballots, destroying ballots, misreading, miscounting, providing misleading reports to the media, voting twice, trying to remove indelible ink

4: Irregularities

Logistical problems, including insufficient number of ballots, ballots missing for certain parties, insufficient number of envelopes, ink that washes off, inadequate secrecy of the vote, missing officials, missing voter registry, no artificial lights

5: Information

Civic education: voters do not seem to have a reasonable understanding of their right to freely choose a candidate or how to express their choice, and administrators do not have a reasonable understanding of their duties and how to execute them.

IFJ logoThis piece is an edited version of a chapter from the Election Reporting Handbook which was produced in May 2003 by the IFJ, the International Federation of Journalists. The handbook was produced with the support of the European Commission and the Danish Foreign Ministry (DANIDA).

Image courtesy of Chris Eaves and released under Creative Commons

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