Pandemic Democracy: COVID-19 And Election Management

Elections are large, social gatherings that involve masses of individuals and galvanise entire societies. No other national operation presents a similar degree of operational magnitude, legal and procedural complexity, and broad-based participation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly disrupted elections, creating new pressures and challenges on how they are managed. The key public health threat associated with elections stems from the need for voters to cast their ballots in person, at a polling stations, most often on a single day. Caribbean nations are particularly impacted as they don’t generally support absentee voting, provisional balloting, early voting, or e-voting (in-person or online).

On January 9th, I participated in a Town Hall discussion hosted by the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus.

The panel was predominantly made up of very experienced and highly capable election management professionals, with myself being the sole expert focusing on leveraging technology to guarantee the representativity and legitimacy of the democratic process. My contributions were specifically around the following areas:

  • Guaranteeing access to the voter registration list in a secure and privacy enabling manner
  • Ensuring speed and transparency in counting votes by moving to secure, electronic systems
  • Emergency planning in response to situations like national disasters and pandemics
  • Accommodation for hospitalised voters
  • Staffing electoral commissions with key IT and information security resources
  • The need for government investment in the digitalisation of elections

It was a very stimulating discussion, and I want to express my gratitude to the University of the West Indies for inviting me. Additionally, I want to thank the panelists and the moderators (Professor Cynthia Barrow-Giles and Dr. Dalano DaSouza) for sharing their ideas and insights.

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