Parts of the Electoral Process

The Carter Center--building on the work of the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, the European Union, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), International IDEA, and many others--recognizes that an election is much more than just election day: It is a cyclical process that unfolds over many months before and after voting occurs. Focusing on the parts of the process most relevant to election observation and assessment, The Carter Center has identified 10 core parts of the electoral process that form the backbone of the analytical framework outlined on this site. These parts, are represented in the following chart.

  • Legal framework: Includes rules that regulate how all aspects of the electoral process will unfold to ensure that the electoral process is consistent with teh state's human rights obligations.

  • Electoral system and boundary delimitation: Focuses on ways votes are converted into mandates and how constituencies are drawn. Like the legal framework, they must be consistent with a state's human rights obligations.

  • Election management: Includes issues related to the structure and mandate of the electoral management body.

  • Voter registration: Includes all aspects of the electoral process related to the registration of voters

  • Voter education: Includes efforts provided by the state, the electoral management body, political parties or civil society to educate the citizenry on the electoral process.

  • Candidacy and campaigning: Includes the registration of candidates and political parties, campaign finance, and other aspects of the electoral process associated with campaigns and/or candidates and political parties.

  • The media: Includes not only issues related to the rights of journalists, but also to the overall media environment, media coverage, and the ability of political contestants to equitably access the media.

  • Voting operations: Relates to election-day operations and events, including polling station operations and management, the secrecy of the ballot, and issues such as the procurement of ballots or technology and establishing alternative means of voting.

  • Vote counting: Includes all counting, aggregation and tabulation processes through to the final announcement of results.

  • Electoral dispute resolution: Includes any mechanism established to hear and adjudicate election-related disputes throughout the electoral cycle.

Based on close review of more than 200 sources of public international law, each of the 21 obligations was associated with the relevant parts of the election. The chart below provides an overview snapshot of the obligations that have been found particularly relevant to each part of the election process.