The technological transformation of elections and election observation: Africa in comparative perspective
Susan Dodsworth (University of Birmingham)
Nic Cheeseman (University of Birmingham)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will examine the adoption of new technologies in different parts of the election process across Africa, the challenges this creates for protecting election integrity, and the ways in which election observers have responded to these challenges.
Paper long abstract:
Elections increasingly involve technology at various stages of the electoral cycle. This ranges from biometric voter registration in advance of the election, to biometric identification on election day, e-voting, digital vote tallying and electronic transmission of results. These new technologies create a number of challenges, both for the election observation missions deployed by international organizations, as well as for the civil society groups that operate as domestic observers or 'election watchdogs.' The uptake of new electoral technologies varies between countries and between different parts of the election process. Many African countries have been early adopters of biometric voter registration. A smaller number of African countries have taken steps towards introducing electronic voting machines. This paper will examine the technological transformation of African elections and election observation in comparative perspective. It will map out: (i) the extent to which countries in Africa have adopted new technologies in different parts of the election process; (ii) the challenges this creates for protecting election integrity; and, (iii) the ways in which international and domestic observers have responded to these challenges. The paper will draw on case studies from Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as examples from beyond the region that allow African elections to be analysed in comparative perspective. While this will expose weaknesses in the current practice of election observers, it will also highlight instances in which observers - domestic and international - have adopted innovative new tactics to protect the integrity of elections.
Technology and democracy in Africa