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Electoral Management Design Handbook Review

Message Rady Ananda
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By Alan Wall, et al. Stockholm, Sweden: International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2006. 360 p.  

The Electoral Management Design (“EMD”) Handbook is written for electoral administrators, electoral administration designers and other practitioners involved in building professional, sustainable and cost-effective electoral administrations that can deliver legitimate and credible free and fair elections. It is a comparative study that shares best practices and know-how from around the world on financing, structuring and evaluation of Electoral Management Bodies. (Preface to EMD Handbook) 

Thirty experienced election administrators and experts from around the world contributed to this publication, advising, “An (Electoral Management Body’s) best defense against difficult stakeholders is a high standard of professionalism, integrity, transparency, impartiality and service in all its activities.” 

Given San Diego County’s recent decision to hire Cuyahoga’s disgraced elections official, Michael Vu, citizens can use EMD authority to bolster their call for Vu’s resignation from San Diego County.   

Even with EMD's divisive posture toward “difficult stakeholders,” activists are well-advised to read each chapter addressing whatever aspect of elections focuses their efforts. Current thinking on various aspects include: 

Electoral Networks and Sustainability;  Stakeholders;  Management Assessment and Accountability; Election Finance Professional Development; Claimed  “Powers, Functions and Responsibilities.”

In building a cohesive and sustainable election integrity movement in the U.S., all groups would be well served by learning the key strategies and intricacies involved in developing elections that not only appear credible, but also provide a basis for confidence. 

Ideas on building a sustainable civic infrastructure that effectively engages officials in desired election reform can be gleaned from the Finance portion.  When envisioning a civically-run electoral oversight infrastructure, a Trust Fund Account for Elections could be created to budget for research, litigation, legislation, and public outreach, as part of an overall strategy that includes sustainability. 

In the Forward, Brigalia Bam (Chairperson, Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and Member of the Board of Directors of IDEA) asserts, “election managers currently face the formidable challenge of ensuring that stakeholders have trust in the electoral process and perceive electoral administrations as credible institutions.”   

But public trust will be hard-gained when EMD authors characterize the general public and election system suppliers as “secondary stakeholders.” This certainly does not describe the situation in the U.S., as vendors have proven to be a stakeholder group strongly valued by election officials, with more influence on choice of voting system than voters themselves.   

Since “the general public” includes voters not involved in election administration, this secondary status reflects elite views that democratic elections belong outside public control. “Voters” are characterized as primary stakeholders, but it seems our only tasks are to vote and to decide whether to trust election results. Nowhere in the design of transparent systems are voters allowed oversight, according to the best management practices offered in the EMD Handbook.  Instead, party representatives observe for us.  As citizens in a democracy, we beg to differ with this thinking. 

At least one author acknowledges the positive impact of civic engagement: “Materials supporting electoral reforms have emerged … from the advocacy activities of civil society organizations and other stakeholders.”  (p.296)  This should encourage election integrity groups and individuals to continue publishing the results of their research and investigations, and to earmark funds for future research. 

Reading the EMD Handbook also provides training in critical thinking, as we frame our arguments opposing the direction elites are heading, or in reviewing our own direction.  We need to be able to speak their language, if we hope to influence their decisions. The EMD Handbook gives us a common language with policy makers. 

This becomes especially relevant in light of the ill-conceived Holt bill - H.R. 811. (For more info and to take action on HR 811, see

The EMD Handbook can also inform funding strategies for the civically engaged portion of the modern election integrity movement.  One strategy should include prioritizing further research activities to confront the oddball solutions being offered by government experts, for-profit corporations, and experts whose solutions perpetuate their employment without providing for citizen oversight.  

Elections belong to the people, and the EMD Handbook offers many sound practices that are relevant to any election worker, including activists engaged in parallel elections.  The EMD Handbook can be purchased at 

Sources and Further Reading: 

Author’s November 2006 Ohio Parallel Election reports:

PE Results Summary; PE vs. Official Results Results; PE Midday Report at; Election Observation Report; and PE training manual at Oct. 06 version

Rady Ananda, “Boo Who Vu?” April 12, 2007 at  

Election Science Institute, DRE Analysis for May 2006 Primary Cuyahoga County, Ohio” 2006, or see click on Cuyahoga County Report tab. 

Paul Lehto, “Cuyahoga County Ohio Elections Official Condones Felony Presidential Recount Rigging,” April 12, 2007 at

Nancy Tobi, “What's Wrong with the New Holt Bill (HR 811)?” March 4, 2007, at   

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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