A step-by-step toolkit to monitor voter participation
- Election Access Observation Toolkit
- IFES - International Foundation for Electoral Systems
- Country of Implementation
- Asia & Pacific
- Southeast Asia
- Start Year
- First published
“Members of the election commissions realize that voting from home is not the only alternative way to vote.” Iryna Tverdokhlib, observer in the Ukraine
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), headquartered in Washington, D.C., works to support the participation of people with disabilities in political life. To that end, it developed an election access observation methodology whereby people with disabilities and their organizations are trained as official observers and use checklists to collect data on access to the electoral process. As of 2018, 13 countries had employed the IFES’s methodology, resulting in the formation of a free-to-download Election Access Observation Toolkit.
Election commissions and other government stakeholders often lack information on the barriers to political rights encountered by voters with disabilities, as well as evidence-based data to evaluate the accessibility of elections.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
IFES developed an election access observation methodology, which assists in specifically collecting data to address barriers to political access for people with disabilities. Based on lessons learned from implementing access observations, IFES developed its Election Access Observation Toolkit. The toolkit provides step-by-step instructions for organizing an election access observation, including how to contextualize observation checklists. In addition, the toolkit aims to involve people with disabilities themselves in the process by training them to conduct the targeted observations, thus empowering them to serve in a political leadership role and self-advocate with policy makers. Between the start of the practice in 2011 and the online publication of the toolkit in 2018, nearly 1,600 people with disabilities have benefitted, and IFES has trained 87 long-term and more than 1,500 short-term observers.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Election access observations have been funded by the governments of Australia, Canada, and the United States. Costs vary by country context, but a typical observation costs approximately $25,000, which includes training people with disabilities as observers. As of 2018, the methodology has been applied in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Ukraine. Based on recommendations collected through observations, countries have adapted their electoral processes accordingly. For example, the Election Commission of Nepal committed to making 1,000 polling stations accessible in their strategic plan. Using the toolkit, election access observations can be replicated by disabled people’s organizations around the world.
THE STORY OF RISNAWATI UTAMI, AN ELECTION OBSERVER WITH THE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ELECTORAL SYSTEMS
“Based on our observations, we made recommendations to the government, many of which have been adopted.”
I am Risnawati Utami, from Indonesia. I am 45 years old and have had a physical disability since I was four. In 1999, Indonesia experienced its first election after Suharto, who served as president for 31 years, stepped down. To ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in the election process, I decided to be an observer in my hometown of Solo, in Central Java. As a result, I found that persons with disabilities who lived in rehabilitation centres were not registered to vote. However, at that time I did not use any standardized tools to observe the election. When I served as an observer in the presidential election of 2014, it was much more accessible and organized than in 1999. This time I worked with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and together we developed a comprehensive tool to assess the accessibility of elections. This included recruiting 150 people with disabilities to serve as observers. Based on these observations, we made recommendations to the government on how to make the elections more accessible, many of which have been adopted. In 2018, I was elected to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee. One of my commitments as a new member of the committee is to develop a General Comment on Article 29, which sets out the framework for the participation of persons with disabilities in political life. Of course, to draft the comment I plan to use my personal experience serving as an election observer.