Recruitment and Training of Personnel
One of the most difficult challenges for EMBs in transitioning to electronic voting and counting technologies is building the capacity at all levels to administer elections with new technologies. This usually involves not only training existing staff, but also creating new structures and hiring new staff with the skills necessary to oversee the technological transition. The long-term goal for EMBs should be to build their capacity to self-administer all aspects of future elections, but initially it is likely that private vendors or technicians would need to be contracted to fulfill specific technological functions. In such cases, vendors’ roles should be clearly defined, and the overall responsibility for administering the elections should remain with the EMB. The terms of the relationship with the vendor, as well as trainings and materials for election officials at all levels, should be open to observers so that they can assess the level of preparedness of the EMB.
Introducing electronic voting and counting systems will present the EMB with significant challenges in administering elections with the selected technology. Depending on the complexity of the technologies adopted and the existing technical competencies of the EMB staff, it is likely that new skill sets will be needed to administer the electronic systems. It is important that EMBs develop the capacity to administer as many aspects of the electronic voting and counting system as possible so that they maintain control over the integrity of the election itself. However, building the necessary capacity in various areas may be a gradual process.
Once the decision to adopt electronic voting and counting systems has been made, the EMB will need to designate who at the central level will be responsible for regulating, managing and operating these systems. While most EMBs have an IT department, assigning it responsibility for overseeing electronic voting and counting would likely overstretch the department’s capacity, having a potentially detrimental effect on the project. Instead, an EMB will likely need to create new structures to conduct these tasks.
An analysis of the staffing requirements associated with the project will need to be conducted as early as possible so that decisions can be made regarding whether the necessary competencies can be filled by training current staff or whether new personnel must be identified and recruited. The same issue will be replicated at the regional, local and polling station levels, in regard to both permanent staff and temporary election staff. Observers should be afforded access to such staffing plans, as these plans are critical to the successful implementation of new technologies.
It may be difficult for EMBs to recruit personnel with the necessary qualifications and experience to operate and update the new systems. EMBs may instead have to rely either on technicians provided by the equipment supplier or on the contracted services of private firms to fulfill specific technological functions, such as software programming and management of security features. Should such personnel be employed, their level of access to systems should be strictly defined and recorded, and their role should be transparent to observers.
Care should be taken to ensure that overall management of the systems remains within the EMB’s authority, as it is responsible for the administration of elections and accountable to the public for their integrity. While private firms or other state actors may conduct important parts of the election process, they should not have overall responsibility for the administration of elections. Over time EMBs should prioritize building their capacity to administer all aspects of electronic voting and counting systems with their own staff resources.
Given the complex nature of electronic voting and counting systems, extended training of permanent and short-term personnel is likely to be necessary. Even at the polling station level, election officials must be knowledgeable enough about the equipment they are required to operate in order to conduct basic troubleshooting if there is a problem on Election Day, or to correctly identify a problem so that the necessary technicians can be contacted. Polling officials must also understand the equipment well enough to explain the process to voters, which will help to increase public confidence in the systems. Similarly, training needs at the regional and central levels will also be significant, as officials must be able not only to operate the equipment, but also to solve problems and, in addition, must be able to explain the process to voters and other stakeholders.
Training for personnel at all levels, therefore, must be comprehensive and effective. Especially when voting and counting systems are used for the first time, it might be necessary for the equipment supplier to play a role in providing training. To the degree possible, the EMB should work with the supplier to develop the in-house capacity to conduct such training. For instance, the equipment supplier can conduct “training of trainers” courses for the in-house EMB trainers to gain the knowledge required to conduct the trainings themselves.
Training events and training materials should be open to scrutiny by observers and stakeholders. Observers should assess the effectiveness of the trainings and materials, and make any recommendations regarding improvements that may be necessary. Through such efforts, observers will also build their own understanding of the procedures and operation of the electronic voting and counting systems, as well as any possible weaknesses they should be aware of on Election Day.
Implementing e-Voting or e-Counting