The administration of elections is one of the fundamentals pillars of democratic governance. Election Management Bodies are the authority or institution in charge of it.
Official names vary across regions and times, but among the most common are Electoral Commission, Electoral Council, Department of Elections, and Electoral Board.
According to The ACE Project, “an electoral management body (EMB) is an organization that has the sole purpose of, and is legally responsible for, managing some or all of the elements that are essential for the conduct of elections and direct democracy instruments—such as referendums, citizens’ initiatives and recall votes—if those are part of the legal framework.”
The open election data initiative notes that among the most significant duties of EMBs are determining who is eligible to vote (voter registration), receiving and validating the nominations of political parties and/or candidates, producing ballots and other election material, conducting the polling, counting the votes, tabulating, announcing the election results, auditing the process, and proclamation of winners.
On top of these tasks, EMBs are also in charge of boundary delimitation, voter education and information, campaign finance monitoring, media monitoring, and electoral dispute resolution.
Muhammad Al-Musbeh in “Managing Elections: Definition and Classification of Elections Management Bodies” states that “if various bodies are responsible for managing these core elements, then all bodies which have a share of these responsibilities can be considered as EMBs. However, EMB may also have a shape of a stand-alone institution or a distinct administrative department within a larger institution which may also have non-electoral duties.”
Election expert Rafael López Pintor in “Electoral Management Bodies as Institutions of Governance” (2000) mentions three essential criteria to classify the EMBs:
- The independence of functions (independent, governmental and mixed EMBs)
- The geographical jurisdiction (centralized and decentralized EMBs)
- The duration of administration (permanent and temporary EMBs)
While Al-Musbeh adds a four type: International EMBs, which exclusively deals with transitional election management processes.
Communication is key for EMBs
Institutional actions of EMBs are expected to be autonomous, non-partisan, transparent, inclusive and informative. Thus, they must provide, timely, as much information (and education) as possible to voters, political parties, candidates, the media, observers and to the public.
A continuous flow of information (during election and non-election years) lets authorities hold credibility in them, engages voters, raises turnout, and makes them a crucial contributor in political stability.
EMBs ultimate priority is conducting free, fair, equal and universal voting; while engaging and monitoring all stakeholders to participate across all the election cycle.
Communication, supervision, technical expertise, political impartiality, and inclusion are essential factors that contribute to election integrity and promotes accountability of administrators and participants.