The global spread of COVID-19 has already profoundly impacted the health and welfare of citizens around the world. Decisions being made about how elections are run during the pandemic will have a further profound effect, shaping the health of democracy in the future.
The ESRC has funded this project on that involves commissioning a range of country case studies, in collaboration with International IDEA, that will be published on this website and eventually in an edited volume.
Cases and other resources from Electoral Management Network members will be shared on this page as they become available. Please get in touch to share your resources.
- ‘Global Overview’, Erik Asplund, International IDEA
- ‘New Development: running an election in a pandemic’ Toby James, Public Money and Management.
- ‘When is it democratic to postpone to postpone an election? Elections during natural disasters, COVID-19 and emergency situations’ Toby James and Sead Alihodzic, Election Law Journal.
- ‘What happens after elections are postponed? Responses to postponing elections during COVID-19 vary by regime type’, Toby S. James and Erik Asplund, International IDEA, 2 September 2020.
- ‘People with COVID-19 and those self-isolating must not be denied the vote’, Erik Asplund, Bor Stevense, Toby S James, Alistair Clark, LSE Blog, 23rd October 2020
- Elections and Covid-19: making democracy work in uncertain times, Toby James and Erik Asplund, Democratic Audit, 30th March.
- Electoral officials need more money to run elections during Covid-19, Erik Asplund, Toby James and Alistair Clark, Democratic Audit, 14th July 2020.
- Adapting elections to COVID-19: five key questions for decision makers, Toby James, International IDEA, 19th May 2020.
- Should elections be postponed because of coronavirus, Toby James, The Conversation, 16th March
Available Case Studies:
- France – Romain Rambaud, Université Grenoble-Alpes, France
- Poland – Vasil Vashchanka, International IDEA
- South Korea – Antonio Spinelli, International IDEA
- Scotland – Alistair Clark, Newcastle University
- Queensland, Australia, Ferran Martinez i Coma, Griffith University, Australia
- Bavaria, Germany – Rebecca Wagner, Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany
- Mali – Robert Gerenge, African Union
- Russia – Iuliia Krivonosova, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
- USA, Kate Sullivan, independent expert
Forthcoming Country cases:
- Spain – Jordi Barrat, Rovira i Virgili University, Brazil
- Nigeria – Ibrahim Sani, Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria
- Brazil – Gabriela Tarouco, Universidade Federal de Pern, Brazil
- Ghana – Fortune Agbele and Ghadafi Saibu, University of Bayreuth, Germany
- Netherlands – Leontine Loeber, University of East Anglia, UK
- India – Saket Ambarkhane, India International Institute of Democracy & Election Management
- Jordan – Fida Nasrallah, international elections expert
Working headline findings and recommendations:
- Many elections have been postponed around the world in response to Covid-19, but the vast majority have now been held or re-scheduled (see: IDEA).
- Postponing an election is not always an undemocratic option because electoral integrity is likely to be undermined during a pandemic, and there is also a humanitarian case for short-term postponements (see: James & Alihodzic; Asplund & James).
- The cost of holding elections during the pandemic are significantly rising, so policy makers will need to invest further resources (see: Asplund, James and Clark)
- Low-tech solutions such as early voting provides one way in which elections can still be held because it spreads the traffic across several days – thereby enabling social distancing (see:James & Alihodzic; James).
- Postal voting can be used to enable vulnerable citizens to vote. The case study from South Korea shows how extending this can be effective. The case study from Poland shows, however, that there are dangers of moving to all-postal elections, however, where electoral officials have no prior experience of the system (see: Spinelli, Vashchanka, James).
- Policy makers should consider the impact of Covid on the whole electoral cycle and not just election day (see James).
- Late legislation should be avoided, where possible, to provide certainty about the rules of the game so that they are deliverable by electoral officials (see Vashchanka, James).
- There is a danger of inaction owing to partisan disagreements – so cross-party working should be encouraged (see James).
- There should be wide consultation of citizens and stakeholder groups to identity the needs of vulnerable groups and to build confidence and transparency (see James).
- Deadlines will often have to be extended to enable electoral officials to deliver the election (see: Clark).
What happens after postponement? (from James and Asplund, 2nd September 2020)
Examples of countries with increased costs as a result of COVID (from Asplund, James and Clark, 14th July 2020).
|Jurisdiction||Additional costs cited||Estimated additional cost quoted (US dollars)||Voting age population||Additional cost per voter ($)|
|Australian Capital Territory||Early voting; staff hours; public information campaigns||$1.6 million||283,162||5.65|
|Canadian province of Saskatchewan||Face masks and thousands of litres of hand sanitiser and disinfectant||$0.3 million||815,000||0.38|
|Indonesia||Health measures||$ 98.8 million||191,671,984||0.52|
|South Korea||Personal protective equipment||$ 16 million||43,814,504||0.37|
|Sri Lanka||Hand sanitisers and additional works||$32–37 million||15,262,770||2.26|
|Uganda||Train polling officials; temperature checks; hands sanitisers||$14.6 million||17,110,660||0.85|
|USA||Postal voting; in-person voting; online registration; public education||$2 billion||255,152,703||7.84|
Examples of countries using Special Voting Mechanisms (from Asplund et al., 23 Oct 2020)
|Alternative voting methods||Countries|
|Postal voting||Australia (Northern Territory), India (Karnatacka), Montenegro, USA, South Korea, Spain(Basque Country and Galicia)|
|Proxy voting||Croatia, Spain (Basque County and Galicia)|
|Home and institution-based voting||Belarus, Czech Republic*, Lithuania, Italy, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Suriname*, Israel*|
|Arrangements in polling stations||Belarus, Czech Republic*, Jamaica, Malaysia (Sabah)*, India (Odisha), Italy, Sri Lanka*, South Korea, USA (Idaho)|
|None of the above – people with COVID-19 are restricted from voting||Belize, Chile, Singapore, Taiwan (Kaohsiung)|
Evidence to Parliaments based on the project:
- Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Scottish General Election (Cornoavirus) Bill, written evidence, November 2020.
- ‘The Work of the Electoral Commission – covid 19’, written evidence to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, 24 November 2020 (with Alistair Clark), 24 November 2020.
Other Guidance for holding an election during COVID
- Elections and Covid-19, International IDEA International IDEA
- Safeguarding Health and Elections, Fernanda Buril, Staffan Darnolf & Muluken Aseresa, IFES, May 2020
- How to hold elections safely and democratically during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah Birch, Fernanda Buril, Nic Cheeseman, Alistair Clark, Staffan Darnolf, Susan Dodsworth, Larry Garber, Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero, Tanja Hollstein, Toby S. James, Vasu Mohan and Koffi Sawyer, British Academy.
Other Country Analysis
- Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19): what could the impact be on the ordinary general election to the Scottish Parliament scheduled for May 2021?, Alistair Clark and Sarah Atherton, SPICe
- UK: It was right to delay England’s local elections, Alistair Clark, Democratic Audit, 16th March 2020.
- USA: Fair Elections During a Crisis, UCL Law, April 2020
Other research from the Electoral Management Network, outside of this project:
- ‘Debate: safeguarding democracy during pandemics. Social distancing, postal, or internet voting—the good, the bad or the ugly?’ Robert Krimmer, David Duenas-Cid & Iuliia Krivonosova, Public Money and Management
Photo credit: Tedward Quinn