Accepted Paper:

The center of election - Bureaucratic practices at a Danish municipal election  


Anne Kathrine Pihl vadgaard (IT University of Copenhagen)

Paper long abstract:

Election Day is often considered a celebration of democracy in which politicians and voters alike partake in the festivities. They vote, campaign discuss, and engage. Election Day is, however, also the culmination of months and months of preparation behind the scene. In the bureaucratic engine room - the election office - every little step towards this celebratory day and the subsequent counting of the ballots are planned meticulously. By following these often mundane and ordinary practices at a Danish election office this paper discusses the bureaucratic infrastructures, in which electoral and democratic issues come into being. Thus this paper reconceptualizes democracy as embedded in practices by investigating the making of an election in a Danish municipality and through attention to the technical and bureaucratic tools through which democracy emerges.

With insights of Bruno Latour and other scholars of science applied to elections and the election office I explore the office as a center for the extended network of polling stations and election officials. In this, the different methods and technologies used to orchestrate Election Day are highlighted. The argument draws on Latour's concept of Centres of Calulation (1987) to describe the relation between the central engine room and peripheral polling places and throughout the paper I will explore how acting at a distance is done in practice. Furthermore, instances when acting at a distance is challenged are discussed as these moments point towards discussions of accountability and control with remote bureaucratic sites.

Panel D3
STS and "the state"