The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University. For the past four years, the EIP has been bringing together scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss effective research and how to design evidence-based programming that will increase the integrity of elections. Since the EIP’s inception, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has been an active participant in the project.

Electoral Laws

Clear legal frameworks are essential for the protection of fundamental suffrage rights, the design and implementation of effective electoral systems, and the efficient and transparent management of elections.The EIP’s Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index focuses on two key aspects of the legal framework: the fairness of electoral laws for smaller and opposition parties, and the extent to which election laws restrict or protect citizen rights. It is also fair to state that electoral legal frameworks touch upon every facet of the electoral process, from the design of the system and the delimitation of electoral districts, to the regimes governing campaign finance and  the adjudication and resolution of complaints and disputes. 

Drawing on international law, best practices and comparative experience, IFES works globally with local partners in analyzing, designing and reforming electoral systems and the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern their implementation – ultimately promoting the effectiveness and credibility of democratic institutions and processes. IFES has several relevant research initiatives underway, focusing on standards and best practices for the investigative processes used to triage and manage election disputes and complaints; the effectiveness of remedies used to provide redress for election violations; and legal and regulatory frameworks for deterring and addressing the abuse of state resources in election campaigns. 

Campaign Finance

The Electoral Integrity Project, through both their Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index as well as their work with Global Integrity and the Sunlight Foundation on integrity indicators through the Money, Politics and Transparency Project, has highlighted the complicated – and in many cases, problematic – role of money in politics, and the difficulty in effectively regulating political finance.  

IFES believes that transparent and accountable systems of political finance that enhance the integrity of the political process and ensure a level playing field for parties and candidates are important for emerging, consolidating, and established democracies. It is clear from EIP’s findings that more support is needed to help countries strengthen the laws governing political finance and, perhaps more importantly, their ability to enforce established rules and regulations. Several of IFES’ approaches and tools, such as the Training in Detection and Enforcement (TIDE) Political Oversight Handbook and accompanying training, are designed to assist political finance regulators in fulfilling their mandate. 

Globally, IFES partners with in-country stakeholders – including government institutions, civil society groups and media – to access various actors involved in the monitoring machinery to support effective and appropriate transparency and accountability measures. Examples of this include working with audit bodies, government agencies and judges to establish efficient control mechanisms; strengthening the capacity of local civil society organizations (CSOs) to detect and raise awareness of major campaign finance and political party finance irregularities; and conducting training for investigative journalists to strengthen their understanding of legal requirements for political parties and candidates regarding spending financial limits and disclosure. IFES is currently working to developing stronger tools to monitor the effect of corruptive forces on electoral integrity, such as the abuse of state resources, as well as effective interventions to combat their negative effects on the political process. 

The Electoral Integrity Project recently compiled a comprehensive ranking of 139 countries based on the overall quality of their election practices, taking into account factors such as electoral laws, electoral procedures; boundaries, campaign media, campaign finance rules, voting process, overall vote count, and voter registration procedures; post- election, electoral authorities. The United States ranked 47th out of 139.

Experts monitored presidential and parliamentary elections all over the world from 2012 to 2015, measuring the quality of each based on 49 indicators. The countries at the top were Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Germany, all scoring indexes above 80. Among the worst ranked countries were Haiti, Belarus, and Cambodia, scoring below 40.

The most widespread election problems identified by the report were related to money and media, with over “two-thirds (68%) of all elections last year having ‘failed’ standards of campaign finance, and 38% of all elections rated as ‘failed’ in the quality of their media coverage.”

They found that inadequate regulation of campaign finance was a huge problem in both affluent and developing countries. Money in politics led to an uneven playing field for candidates, misallocation of state resources, and a general reduction in the public’s confidence in elections. Experts were also concerned with the unregulated process of drawing district boundaries.

Perhaps most notably, the United States’ elections were ranked the worst among all the long-standing democracies included.

“In the United States, the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 Congressional elections were ranked worst of any long-established democracy, especially on campaign finance and electoral registration,” the authors found.

Fledgling democracies such as Croatia, Benin, and Lesotho managed to score higher indexes than the U.S, showing that veteran democracies don’t necessarily have it all figured out. Perhaps the longer a democracy has been around, the more opportunity for corruption and malpractice there is.

The project plans to continue adjusting their rankings based on future election cycles around the world, including 2016 elections in Australia, Russia and, of course, the U.S.

Global Rank

  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Costa Rica
  6. Germany
  7. Estonia
  8. Netherlands
  9. Switzerland
  10. Iceland
  11. Lithuania
  12. Austria
  13. Slovenia
  14. Czech Republic
  15. New Zealand
  16. Uruguay
  17. Canada
  18. Poland
  19. Slovakia
  20. Israel
  21. Cyprus
  22. Portugal
  23. Latvia
  24. Belgium
  25. Australia
  26. Benin
  27. Spain
  28. Japan
  29. Brazil
  30. Tonga
  31. Tunisia
  32. Italy
  33. Croatia
  34. Chile
  35. Greece
  36. Grenada
  37. Malta
  38. United Kingdom
  39. Mongolia
  40. Argentina
  41. Mauritius
  42. Rwanda
  43. South Africa
  44. Lesotho
  45. Barbados
  46. USA
  47. Micronesia
  48. Oman
  49. Bhutan

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