International Best Practices

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International Practices – Elections

Elections are one of the primary elements of a democratic society. In theory, people express their opinion through elections and elect their representatives who in turn legislate for the welfare of their electors. Nevertheless, elections are not mere casting of votes. It involves a number of stages and aspects including but not limited to the registration of electors/voters, election timeline, qualification of the candidates, transparency in the election process and accountability of the elected representatives. The democratic states endeavor to provide opportunity to their citizens to get them registered as a voter/electors. The established democracies have a proper timeline and well-recognized electoral process. Similarly, states ensure that the electors have convenient and conducive environment to cast their votes on the Election Day. Transparency in the electoral process and accountability of the elected representatives remain a challenge. However, the world democracies have devised mechanisms to ensure maximum transparency in the elections. Accountability mechanisms are also formulated. In following pages an effort has been made to provide examples of best practices with regard to voter registration, election timeline, casting of vote, transparency and accountability.

Theme

 

Countries

United States of America

United Kingdome

Australia

India

Register to Vote

Who can be a voter

  • Must be a US citizen
  • Be at least 17 years old but must be 18 years old prior to next elections to vote
  • Not be under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony
  • Not be under a judgment of full interdiction for mental incompetence or partial interdiction with suspension of voting rights.
  •  Resident in the state and parish in which the voter seek to register
  • It is mandatory to register the vote; otherwise, the a fine of £1000 may be imposed through summary conviction
  • Anyone aged 16 or over can register to vote but cannot vote until reaching 18 years of age
  • Must be British or qualifying commonwealth citizen
  • Citizen of the Republic of Ireland or other European Union member state
  • It is compulsory for an Australian citizen or eligible British subject to vote
  • A person can enroll to vote at the age of 17 but cannot vote before the age of 18.
  • A resident of a constituency for at least one month 

 

 

  •  All citizens of India above 18 years of age, as on 1st January of the year for which the electoral roll is prepared, can be voters
  •  Only persons who are of unsound mind and have been declared so by a competent court or disqualified due to corrupt practices or offences relating to elections cannot be voters

 

How to get the vote registered?

  • Apply online to register
  • Apply in person to register at any registrar of voters’ office
  • Apply by mail or hand delivery by downloading the voter registration application form from election authority’s website, completing it and returning it to local registrar of voters’ office.
  • Registered to vote by contacting the local authority to ask for a registration form.
  •  Register online by filling the registration for available on the website of the election authority

·       

  • Registered to vote by submitting online application available on the election commission’s website
  • Application form can also be accessed from:
    •  Post office
    •  Offices of the election commission directly
    • Tax offices
    •  shopfronts
    •  Centrelink customer centres
    • Medicare offices
  • Online filling of voter registration form
  •  Submission of printed form, with Identity Card or any proof of age and address, to local electoral registration office
  •  Only voter him/her self can submit the form

 

When to get registered?
  • Must be registered in 30 days prior to an election.. (Each state has its own registration deadline
  • Registered to vote at anytime of the year
  • No specific requirement
  • Voter registration process is done through house-to-house enumeration
  • It is normally once in five years.
  • Summary revisions are done every year during a specified period when persons who are left out of the electoral rolls are given an opportunity to register themselves

Election Timelines

 
  • As per the United States Constitution, a presidential voting is to be seized once after every fourth year
  • The procedure of choose a President and Vice-President commence long prior to Election Day
  • Contenders from both chief and small political organizations and independent candidates start to increase funds and promotions at least one year in proceed of the common presidential election
  • In sort to formally symbolize a political party, a contender must be chosen by that party
  • Candidate campaigns to win delegate support
  •  Caucuses’ election takes place – local party members gather to nominate a candidate.
  •  Primary elections take place – party (Republicans/Democrats) voters go to the polls to cast vote for nomination of presidential candidate by the party
  • Nominee for president is announced at national party conventions
  • Citizens cast their votes – Selecting groups of electors in the Electoral College
  • The Electoral College casts its votes
  •  The president is inaugurated
  • The formal end of the parliamentary session is marked by what is known as prorogation. The House of Commons may decide that it will not prorogue.
  • Dissolution Parliament dissolves.
  •  A proclamation will be made announcing when Parliament will meet after the general election and setting the date of the Queen's Speech at State.
  • Opening Writs will be issued for elections in the UK's 650 constituencies
  • Voter registration deadline  – date to be announced
  •  Election day
  •  The return of Parliament
  •  MPs start swearing the Oath of Allegiance or making an Affirmation in the Commons
  •  The Queens Speech
  • Election of the speaker of the House of Commons
  • Expiry or dissolution of Parliament. The House of Representatives expires three years after its first meeting but can be dissolved earlier
  •  Election Announcement
  •  Issue of writs – within 10 days of the dissolution of Parliament
  •  Close of rolls – 7 days after the issue of writ
  • Close of nominations
  •  Declaration of nominations
  • Lodgment of senate Group Voting Tickets
  •  Polling day
  •  Return of writ
  •  Meeting of parliament
  • Delimitation of constituencies
  • Preparation of voters’ list
  • Filing of nomination papers
  •  Scrutiny of nomination papers and withdrawals
  •  Election campaign
  •  Model code of conduct
  • Voting
  • Counting of votes and declaration of result
  • Election petition

Casting your Vote

 
  •  Voters are assigned to a polling place based on the home address listed on the voter registration record.
  • At least two States conduct elections entirely by mail and, therefore, do not have polling places. In these States, voters may also submit their ballots at ballot drop sites located throughout the jurisdictions.
  •  Voters whose eligibility to vote is in question must be offered a provisional ballot at the polling place during Federal elections.
  •  Some States allow voters to cast a ballot before Election Day. Early voting is voting conducted before Election Day during which a voter completes a ballot in person at a jurisdiction’s election office, other designated polling place, or ballot drop site.
  •  Voters who cannot go to their polling place on Election Day may qualify to cast an absentee ballot. Each State establishes its own rules and procedures for absentee voting.
  •  Voter Card will be sent to the voters’ postal addresses if they’re registered to vote
  •  A Voter/poll card tells the voter where and when to vote
  •  A voter can vote in person by visiting the polling station mentioned in the voter card
  •  On Election Day, voters go to the polling station. The polling station is usually a school, local hall or public building near where you live.
  • Upon reaching the polling staff, voters show their voter card to polling staff
  • Polling staff issues a ballot paper, containing the list of candidates, to the voter 
  •  The top of the ballot paper will tells that how many votes one can can make
  •  A voter can also vote by post after filling the postal vote application form in case if a voter is unable to get to the polling station.
  • A voter can also vote by proxy i.e. a voter can ask someone else voting on the voter’s behalf
  •  A voter can cast vote at a polling station – Ordinary voter
  •  A voter can cast vote out of his/her home division but still within their home state or territory on election day - Absent vote
  •  A voter can cast early vote in person or by post in case if he/she is outside of the electorate where he/she is enrolled to vote, or unable to be at the polling station on election day due to some reason
  • An interstate vote can be cast on election day at interstate voting centers by voters who are not in their home state
  •  Voters who are overseas can vote either in person at an overseas voting center, or by applying for a postal vote.
  • Australian Election Commission (AEC) mobile polling facilities are set up in some hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and remote areas of Australia to facilitate voters who are unable to vote on Election Day at polling station.
  • An elector should immediately check whether his/her name has been included in the electoral roll of the constituency where you reside or not.
  •  The Election Commission of India has made voter identification mandatory at the time of poll.
  •  A voter should possess a voting card or check the name in the voters list
  • A voter should visit the polling station to vote
  • The poll date and hours are fixed by the Election Commission India and they are well publicized before all elections.
  •  Upon reaching the polling station, First Polling Officer will mark copy of the electoral roll and check identification of electors.
  •  The First Polling Officer will then call out voter’s name and serial number so that the polling agents become aware of your presence and your identity is not challenged.
  • Second Polling Officer will mark left forefinger of voter with the indelible ink.
  •  He will proceed to record voter’s serial number in the electoral roll in the Register of Voters. Once this is recorded, voter is to sign in the appropriate column in the Register of Voters. If a voter cannot sign, his/her thumb impression will be obtained.
  •  The Second Polling Officer will then give a signed voter’s slip, which will record your serial number in the register of voters and your serial number in the electoral roll.
  • The Third Polling Officer will take the voter’s slip issued by the Second Polling Officer.
  • The Third Polling Officer will press the "Ballot" button on the Control Unit of voting machine and direct voter to the voting compartment where voter will record his/her vote on the balloting unit of the voting machine.
  •  Inside the compartment, voter cast the vote on voting machine

Qualification for elected representatives

 
  •  US Representative must be at least 25 years of age.
  •  State representative must be at least 18 years of age.
  •  Both US and state representative must be a registered voter
  • Both US and state representative Must be a U.S. citizen.
  •   US representative must be a citizen for at least 7 years prior to the date of the election
  •  US representative must be an inhabitant of the State when elected.
  • State representative must b a resident of the district for one year preceding the date of the election
  •  US representative requires certified signatures of at least 2000 voters registered in the district, while state representative requires certified signatures of at least 150 voters registered in the district
  • A Representative must be a British citizen and be at least 18 years old, or a citizen of a Commonwealth country with indefinite leave to stay in the UK
  •  A nomination form, available from the Electoral Commission or Local council, must be filled and signed by 10 electors of the constituency a candidate wish to stand in, and delivered by the candidate in person
  •  Authorization is required to stand for a specific party, otherwise candidates will be described as independent or have no description
  • A £ 500/- deposit is required when submitting the nomination papers by the candidate, which will be returned if the candidate receives over 5% of the total votes cast
  •  A candidate must be a registered local government elector
  •  A candidate must occupy as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the local authority area
  •  Main and only of work is in the local authority area of the candidate
  • Must be living in the local authority area
  •  A candidate must be over 18 years of age
  • A candidate must be an Australian citizen
  •  A candidate must pay a campaign fee
  • A candidate must be registered with Australian Electoral Commission
  •  A candidate may stand as an independent in general election or represent a political party by winning a pre-selection ballot held internally by the party
  • A candidate must be Indian citizen
  •  Minimum age for the candidate is 25 years of age
  • A candidate must be a registered voter in any constituency in India
  •  A registered voter from any constituency can contest an election to Lok Sabha from any other constituency except Assam, Lakshadweep and Sikkim
  •  If a person is convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment of 2 years or more, this will be disqualification to contest election
  •  A candidate should deposit Security fees of Rs. 10,000/- for Lok sabha elections
  •   A candidate of a recognized national/state party requires only one elector of the constituency as proposer
  •  An independent candidate of an unrecognized political party require ten electors from the constituency as proposers

Transparency in Electoral Process:

Transparency in electoral process can be measured through various tools, instruments and mechanisms. If these tools, instruments and mechanisms are in-placed and applied, the electoral process can be termed as transparent. 

Whether the access to information regime through an enabling legislation is in-place and applicable to electoral process
  •  In the USA, the Federal Freedom of Information Act is applicable to all independent regulatory agencies including the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
  •  The UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 is applicable to the Electoral Commission (EC) of the UK.  
  • The Australian Freedom of Information law is applicable to all statutory bodies including the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)
  •  India has got right to information law in 2005. The law is applicable to all constitutional bodies including the Election Commission of India (ECI)

 

Transparency in candidates’ nomination process/scrutiny process

  •   The US FEC provides a specialized process of candidacy (of House of representatives, Senate or Presidency). The candidates have to submit a Statement of Candidacy (upon receiving a contribution of US$ 5000 or making expenditure up to US$ 5000) and regularly submit report of receipts and disbursements to ECP on regular basis. The information submitted to the FEC is available for public through website
  •  The candidates’ nomination process involves a number of voters from the community. All the information submitted by the candidates is available. Citizens can also access the information for scrutiny through FOI Act.  
  • The mechanism to nominate the candidates is clear and well explained. The information submitted by or about the candidates along with all the details can be accessed through FOI law.
  • The process presumed to be transparent and provide opportunity to citizens to take part in scrutiny process

 

Disclosures by the candidates and transparency in campaign expenditures

  • The FEC requires the candidates to disclose all campaign related financial expenditures and contributions through a dedicated web portal
  • EC is mandated to maintain register of party and election finance. The register is a public document, which includes information about the donations, candidates’ income and expenditures and statement of accounts.
  • The disclosure scheme requires candidates, registered political parties, their State Branches, local branches/sub-party units and their associated entities, donors and other participants in the electoral process to lodge annual or election period financial disclosure returns with AEC
  • The Indian Supreme Court in 2002 ruled that voters are entitled to receive detailed information about the background of candidates for election, including their assets and any pending criminal investigations. The Court directed the Election Commission to collect such information from all candidates running for national and state legislatures, and to make the information public in advance of elections.

 

Transparency in voting process and counting of votes

  •  Voting procedure presumed to be transparent with required amount of privacy to cast vote through secret ballot
  • As soon as the last voter has voted, the election judge at each polling place sends the sealed ballot boxes to a central vote counting facility. This is usually a government office, like a city hall or county courthouse. Where computerized voting machines are used, the election judge will send the media on which the votes are recorded to the counting facility.
  • The ballot boxes or computer media are usually transported to the counting facility by sworn law enforcement officers
  •  At the central counting facility, certified observers from the political parties or candidates watch the actual vote counting to make sure the count is fair
  • The polling process is designed to be transparent and voters are given required privacy to cast the vote through a secret ballot
  •  To ensure transparent vote count, a team consisting of following persons undertakes the counting process.
  1. Returning Officer and their staff
  2.  Candidates and one other person chosen by each of them
  3. The candidate’s election agent
  4. Any appointed counting agents
  5. Any accredited election observers   Representatives of the Electoral Commission
  • The voting process ensures transparency and provide adequate opportunity to the voters to cast their votes through secret ballot
  • The counting of votes is known as the scrutiny
  •  Polling officials do the counting of the votes
  • The National Tally Room is organized by the AEC to provide a central point for the display of election results on election night
  •  The National Tally Room is one of Australia's largest media gatherings with representation from the radio, print and television media
  •  Voting process and procedure is quite elaborated and well-explained
  • Votes are counted by or under the supervision / direction of the Returning Officer of the Constituency. When the counting is completed, the Returning officer declares the result
Independent election observation
  • The US electoral agency invites international independent observers to observe the polling process and allows local watch-dog groups to monitor the process
  •   In July 2006, the UK Parliament passed legislation which allows individuals and organizations to observe proceedings at elections in the UK
  •  Information: not available
  • The Election Commission appoints a large number of Observers to ensure that the campaign is conducted fairly, and that people are free to vote as they choose. Election expenditure Observers keeps a check on the amount that each candidate and party spends on the election

Accountability of Elected Representatives:

Tools, instruments and mechanism for accountability include but not limited to: access to information; observation of the proceedings of the House; open hearing of the Committees; and proactive disclosure of proceedings of the House/Live telecast. 

Access to information

  • The Federal Freedom of Information Act provide access to information about the elected representatives

 

 

  •  Except parliamentary privilege, the Freedom of Information Act, 2000 does not exempt any other information relating to the House and members of the House
  • Except cabinet documents, the Freedom of Information Act, 1982 does not pose any restriction on access to information about the elected representatives
  • Right to Information Law is applicable to all constitutional bodies including the Lok Sabha and Rajia sabha
Observation of the proceedings of the House /Senate
  •   U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have enacted their own rules and have allowed substantial public access to their proceedings and records.
  •  Parliament is open to all members of the UK public and overseas visitors.
  • Visitors to Parliament House may view the proceedings of both the House of Representatives and the Senate from the Public Galleries in the Chambers
  •  All persons other than members of the Lok Sabha are regarded as ‘strangers’, with the exception of the Officers of the House and staff on duty. During sessions of the Lok Sabha, admission of strangers to those portions of the House, which are not reserved for the exclusive use of the members, is regulated in accordance with the orders made by the Speaker. At the time of the sitting of the House, the Chamber is reserved for the exclusive use of members and strangers are not permitted therein. The other portion of the House where strangers may be permitted to go under specified conditions is the Galleries, apart from the Central Hall        
Open hearing of the Committees
  • Nearly all Congressional committee meetings are required by law to be open to the public; however, Committee members can vote to close meetings to the public, and sometimes do
  • Members of the public are welcome to attend public committee meetings; however, there is limited seating in the public gallery
  • Committee hearings are usually formal public meetings of the Parliament. Hansard reporters record everything that is said.
  •  Submissions and hearings are published in Hansard and are available on the Parliament House website.
  • The media often attend and report on proceedings
  •  No information available
Proactive disclosure of proceedings of the House/Live telecast
  • Live telecast of proceedings of the House through C-SPAN
  •  Live telecast of the proceedings
  • Senate estimates hearings are broadcast live over the Internet
  •  Live telecast of the proceedings

The above information is taken from a number of online sources. These sources are given below: 

  1. Indian Lok Sabha: http://loksabha.nic.in/
  2. The US House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/
  3. UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/
  4. Parliament of Australia: http://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Planning_a_visit/Chamber_Public_Galleries
  5.  Australian Electoral Commission: http://www.aec.gov.au/
  6. The Electoral Commission: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/
  7. Federal Election Commission: http://www.fec.gov/
  8. The Electoral System of India: http://www.indian-elections.com/electoralsystem/mediacoverage.html
  9. Information about elections, political parties and candidates: Counting the Votes on Election Day: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/votecounts.htm
  10. USA register and casting vote http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/EAC_VotersGuidePrint%20(2).pdfhttp://www.eac.gov/
  11. USA election timeline http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0878225.html
  12. USA qualifications for House of Representatives http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei
  13. UK vote to register 
  14. UK casting your vote http://www.dopolitics.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/84452/6180_EC4_Easy_Guide_EW.pdf
  15. UK election timeline http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/general/general-election-timetable-2015/
  16. UK Qualifications for Member of Parliament http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/141784/Part-1-Can-you-stand-for-election-LGEW.pdf
  17. Australia register your vote http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/your_vote.htm
  18. Australia casting your vote http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/ways_to_vote/
  19. Australia election timeline http://www.aec.gov.au/Elections/australian_electoral_system/electoral_procedures/Federal_Election_Timetable.htm
  20. Australia qualifications for Parliament Representative http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/Powers_practice_and_procedure/practice/chapter5#cons
  21. India Register and casting your vote http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/ECI_voters_guideline_2006.pdf ,
  22. http://wwwguide.in/election-commission/guidelines.html
  23. India election timeline http://www.preservearticles.com/2012051632260/what-is-the-election-procedure-in-india.html
  24. India qualifications for Parliament Representative http://lawmin.nic.in/olwing/coi/coi-english/Const.Pock%202Pg.Rom8Fsss(9).pdf

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