The recommendations on the US electoral system

Republished here from the original report because I suspect nobody will ever see them otherwise. Most are sensible enough and behind the cut; the two I’ve left are issues where the US is particularly deficient in terms of democratic practice IMHO.


The OSCE/ODIHR is pleased to offer a number of recommendations for consideration by the U.S. authorities. In view of the decentralized nature of U.S. election administration, it would appear appropriate to formulate such recommendations within the framework of the minimum federal standards approach as demonstrated by HAVA [the Help America Vote Act]. While HAVA implementation is due for completion in January 2006, ongoing electoral reform efforts to address an array of issues as cited in this report should be considered. In this process, structured consultations between election officials, voter advocacy and domestic non-partisan observer groups to discuss perceived administrative or other obstacles in relation to effective participation would enhance public confidence in the election process.


    1. Provisional ballots. In the context of provisional balloting, the legislature should provide a precise definition of the term “jurisdiction”. Election officials should ensure that, at the time of announcing initial unofficial results, these include the totals of provisional ballots cast and ultimately the number counted. This would provide for a comparison of the margin between leading candidates and the number of provisional ballots cast in a concrete contest, with a possible estimate for the impact of provisional balloting on the outcome.
    2. Absentee (out–of-country) voting by fax. The practice of allowing voters to send completed ballots by fax, permitted in some states for voters residing abroad, discloses the secrecy of their ballot. Given that the secrecy of the vote is a broadly accepted principle, further consideration should be given to developing voting mechanisms for out-of-country voters, which preserve the secrecy of the vote, in line with OSCE commitments.
    3. Voter identification and voter challenges. Serious consideration should be given to address both voter identification and voter challenge rules simultaneously, with a view to amend both of them and achieve guarantees for integrity while removing perceived intimidation. In the absence of broadly used voter identification rules requiring each voter to show an identification document with photo when he or she goes to the polling station to vote, voter challenges may be perceived as a possibility to enhance the integrity of the polling process. However, they can equally be perceived as intimidating, depending on personal attitudes and respective circumstances.
    4. DRE [Direct Recording Electronic] voting equipment. While the ultimate deadline for implementation of DRE voting equipment, to satisfy the requirements of HAVA, expires on 1 January 2006, the following measures could prove essential with a view to enhance voters’ confidence in such new voting technologies:

      1. Inclusion of provisions that will permit competent individuals, academic institutions or civil society groups to comprehensively and independently test DRE voting equipment subject to reasonable limitations related only to patent or copyright law. However, such testing should not be perceived as a substitute for the establishment of inclusive and transparent certification procedures.
      2. Approval of provisions that will ensure against possible conflicts of interests of the vendors.
      3. As the requirements of HAVA include that DRE systems produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity, serious consideration should also be given to ensuring a voter verified auditable paper trail (VVAPT).
      4. Establishment of a clear division of responsibilities between vendors, certification agencies and election administrators, to fully ensure accountability and an effective response in the case of failure of DRE equipment.

    5. Poll worker training. During the implementation of HAVA, consideration should be given to enhance individual states’ efforts in training poll workers to manage new voting equipment, by releasing additional federal funding for training activities. Such measures have also the potential to further accelerate processing of voters on election day.
    6. Early voting sites. Based on experience from the 2 November 2004 election, consideration could be given to increase the numbers of early voting sites, and ensure their balanced distribution, with a view to reduce waiting times, further encourage voters’ participation, and ensure equal access to this provision.


    1. Access of international observers to the polling process. Congress and individual states should consider how to ensure unimpeded access to all stages of the election process for international observers who have been invited to observe U.S. elections by the U.S. Government, in order to bring state laws fully in line with the United States’ OSCE commitments.
    2. Domestic non-partisan observation. Consideration should also be given to developing criteria to determine which civic groups are accredited as domestic non-partisan election observers. This would further enhance transparency and bring state laws fully in line with the United States’ OSCE commitments. Additionally, regulation of involvement of civil society groups in voter registration has the potential to streamline such activity, to the benefit of voters.
    3. Civil and political rights of ex-felons. In regard to restriction of civil and political rights of ex-felons, federal and state laws should ensure that the principle of proportionality between offense and sanction is upheld. This will also enhance uniformity of voter qualifications for federal elections and avoid any discrimination in respecting the principle of universal suffrage.
    4. District boundaries. With a view to ensuring genuine electoral competition in congressional districts, consideration should be given to introduce procedures for drawing district boundaries that will be based on information other than voters’ voting histories and perceived future voting intentions.

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1 Response to The recommendations on the US electoral system

  1. irishkate says:

    Twas great to see you too and hear about the important political work being done.. Results visible your princeness..

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