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Building Better Elections, 11th ECPR General Conference Universitetet I Oslo, Oslo 6 – 9 September 2017

ECPR logoBuilding Better Elections: Election Management in Comparative Perspective
11th ECPR General Conference Universitetet I Oslo, Oslo 6 – 9 September 2017

Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Comparative Political Institutions.

We are delighted to be hosting our first event at the ECPR General Conference.


The number of elections that are held around the world has increased substantially with over 90% of the world’s nation states now holding regular national elections (Hyde and Marinov 2012). While many elections are conducted across the world to very high standards, there remains evidence of problems with poor election quality in both established and transitional democracies (Lehoucq 2003; Alvarez, Atkeson, and Hall 2012; Birch 2011; Norris 2014, 2015; James 2014). The design and performance of electoral management boards (EMBs), the organizations responsible for conducting elections, is one of the key factors shaping election integrity and has accordingly become a pressing concern for policy makers.

Conducting an election is a huge logistical challenge that involves the complex management of people, technology and resources. Planning and executing an election is comprised of a variety of technical and administrative tasks: voters must be registered and educated, candidates must register and keep track of their expenses, ballots must be designed, printed, distributed and counted. These electoral management tasks are crucial to engendering confidence in the electoral process and legitimacy of the results, and to maintaining election integrity.

Yet EMBs come in many different organizational forms around the world, and it is not clear how EMB institutional design and performance shapes election integrity. Previous work on this topic has taken three major paths. The first, building on the work of international and inter-governmental organizations, such as the International IDEA (International IDEA 2014), considers the legal designs and functions of election management bodies themselves, in an attempt to build better electoral institutions (Birch 2011; Norris 2014; van Ham and Lindberg 2015). The second, drawing primarily on the sharp increase of research on election laws following the 2000 election in the United States, looks at the efficacy of specific election laws, from postal voting to voter identification laws, in improving turnout and trust in elections (Hasen 2012; Hall 2013). The third uses tools from public administration to understand how to improve EMB organisational performance (Alvarez, Atkeson, and Hall 2012b, 2012a; Montjoy 2008; James 2013, forthcoming; Garnett forthcoming). Despite these inroads, there remain huge gaps in knowledge with most studies limited in their focus to the USA.

This conference Section features papers from all three major avenues of inquiry, tackling some of the most pressing electoral management issues around the globe.

This Section will be sponsored by, and launch the new Electoral Management Network (, a collective of scholars who research election management around the globe. The researchers involved in the Electoral Management Network will present the first results of a research project surveying EMB organisations in over 30 countries in Europe.

Please contact Toby James or Holly Ann Garnett with any queries.

Preliminary Programme

We have three section panels which will all take place on Saturday 9th September in Building: BL07 P.A. Munchs hus Room: PAM SEM5. This information will continue to be updated as the conference approaches. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Section page on the ECPR website:

Panel 1: Accountability in Electoral Management, 11:00-12.40

This panel looks at the how accountability mechanisms can be built into the electoral process and the effects that they have in improving the running of elections. This includes the legal independence that EMBs, the role of election monitoring organisations, the regulation of social media and the relationships between the range of other actors involved in the electoral process.

Chair: Toby James, University of East Anglia

Discussant: Alistair Clark, University of Newcastle

LUNCH, Saturday 12:40 – 14:00

Panel 2: Building Human, Technological and Financial Resources in Election Management, 14:00-15:40

This panel looks at the resources and capacity of EMBs. Papers will seek to explore and conceptualise EMB resources from different perspectives, including human, technological and financial. They will examine the approach that EMBs and international organisations have taken in using these resources and ‘what works’ in delivering well run elections.

Chair: Carolien van Ham, University of New South Wales

Discussant: Stuart Wilks-Heeg, University of Liverpool

Panel 3: Election Management in New and Struggling Democracies, 16:00 – 17:40

This panel looks at the role and functions in new and struggling democracies. Papers will look at the relationships between electoral governance, justice and popular confidence in the electoral process in a range of cases studies cross-national studies.

Chair: Leontine Loeber, University of East Anglia

Discussant: Max Grömping, University of Sydney

Dinner for paper givers/chairs/discussants- details to be confirmed.


  • Alvarez, R. Michael, Lonna Rae Atkeson, and Thad E. Hall. 2012a. Confirming Elections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • ———. 2012b. Evaluating Elections: A Handbook of Methods and Standards. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Birch, Sarah. 2011. Electoral Malpractice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Garnett, Holly Ann. forthcoming. “Open election management bodies.” In Election Watchdogs, edited by Pippa Norris and Alessandro Nai. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hall, Thad E. 2013. “US Voter Registration Reform.” Electoral Studies, 32, (4), p. 589-96.
  • Hasen, Richard L. 2012. The voting wars: From Florida 2000 to the next election meltdown. Grand Rapids, MI: Yale University Press.
  • International IDEA. 2014. Electoral Management Design: Revised Edition. Stockholm: International IDEA.
  • James, Toby S. 2013. “Fixing failures of U.K. electoral management.” Electoral Studies, 32, (4), p. 597-608.
  • ———. forthcoming. Comparative Electoral Management: Performance, Networks and Instruments. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Montjoy, Robert S. 2008. “The Public Administration of Elections.” Public Administration Review, 68, (5), p. 788-99.
  • Norris, Pippa. 2014. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • van Ham, Carolien, and Staffan Lindberg. 2015. “When Guardians Matter Most: Exploring the Conditions Under Which Electoral Management Body Institutional Design Affects Election Integrity.” Irish Political Studies, 30, (4), p. 454-81.

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