Election Universe

A new approach to improving elections

August 09 2013, 21:13
 Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During the 6th International Electoral Affairs Symposium 2013, Michael Bruter and Sarah Harrison, representing the International Center for Electoral Psychology (ICEP), presented a breakthrough approach to election administration.

Using the lenses of Electoral Ergonomics, the researchers demonstrated a psychological viewpoint of voting which adds even more complexities to the art of election administration.

Electoral Ergonomics is defined by Bruter and Harrison as “the optimisation of all relevant electoral procedures and mechanisms to provide the best possible electoral experience for voters.” It turns out that where a vote is cast, what method is used, at what time polling stations open, how the ballot is designed, are all aspects that shape an election and should be considered when molding the votersĀ“ experience. Basically, electoral ergonomics help to understand “who votes, how they vote, why they vote the way they do, and how they feel about it”.

Here are some examples that support their findings. In the 2010 British General elections, “voters aged 18-25 were nearly twice more likely to chose an extremist party if voting by post than at the polling station. Among 25-45 year old, the likeliness to vote for the extreme right also increases by 24%.” So, voting at home should not be judged only by how convenient it is. It also has political implications.

Another study, performed by the same authors in joint efforts with N. Anstead, S. Banaji, B. and other institutions, confront the general idea that internet voting (signaled as e-voting in the study) is convenient and therefore, it enhances participation is confronted by what was observed: “A six country experiment proves how negative the impact of e-voting can actually be on the turnout of first time voters”.

Turnout first time voters


Another interesting point made: “Based on a six-country experiment, young voters felt less happy, less enthusiastic, and more worried when using e-voting rather than voting at a polling station.”

This presentation was one of the many interesting discussions on election administration that took place during this event held in Mauritius between the 27th and 29th. It is definitely a must for those as passionate as we are when it comes to this field.