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Electoral Insight – International Electoral Co-operation

Electoral Insight – March 2006

Electoral Observation: Guides, Guidelines and Handbooks

Albert, Madeleine, ed. Election Observing: Practical Guide for Members of Election Monitoring Missions Abroad. 2nd ed. Sainte-Foy: Directeur général des élections du Québec, 1999. 62 pp.

This document examines the process of electoral observation in some detail: its principles and applicable codes of conduct, the main stakeholders, preparations for observation and follow-up to missions, the personal preparation of observers, and a list of elements likely to be observed. It is designed as a practical but comprehensive guide for members of election monitoring missions.

Commission of the European Communities. Implementation of the Communication on Election Assistance and Observation. Commission Staff Working Paper. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities, 2003. 18 pp.

This document outlines the methodology employed by the Commission of European Communities to make European Union election activities (e.g. funding and monitoring) more consistent, transparent and credible. It includes the Commission's guidelines for decisions on the deployment of electoral observation missions, for increasing the role of the European Parliament in these missions, and for increasing a country's domestic capacity to conduct and observe its own elections.

Howard, Ross. Media and Elections: An Elections Reporting Handbook. Vancouver: Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, 2004. 32 pp.
Available for downloading in English, French and Arabic at

This free handbook has become a widely used resource on the basics of election reporting for the training of journalists in emerging democracies. It is a welcome addition to documents oriented toward media and election training produced by other organizations over the past several years.

Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit. Good Practice Guidelines for Commonwealth Observers. London: Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, 2002. 8 pp.

This step-by-step guide walks an observer through the process of election monitoring, from pre-election research and personal preparation to final reporting. Many sections are specific to Commonwealth Secretariat observers, but the guidelines may be generally applied.

IFES. Instructions for Assessment of the Election Process. Washington: IFES, 2004. 10 pp.

This brief introduction to electoral observation includes a guide to proper conduct, monitoring techniques, and assessment forms for poll opening, vote monitoring and ballot counting.

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Election Guidelines for Determining Involvement in International Election Observation. International IDEA Election Guidelines Series, No. 1. Stockholm: International IDEA, 2000. 31 pp.

This document identifies generally accepted criteria and prerequisites upon which an organization may decide to observe an international election, while highlighting both the importance and implications of such activities. It is designed to help organizations determine whether an invitation for involvement should be accepted and to objectively justify this decision to the requesting authority.


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Election Observation Handbook. 5th ed. Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR, 2005. 89 pp.

This handbook provides a thorough overview of the ODIHR's observation methodology and serves as a reference work for election observers, taking into account issues such as the participation of women and the inclusion of national minorities. It informs the OSCE community at large about the planning, deployment and implementation of an election observation mission.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Handbook for Domestic Election Observers. Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR, 2003. 123 pp.

This handbook outlines effective methodologies for election monitoring that have been developed and employed by both international and domestic observers, and considers to what degree international standards should be respected or adapted by domestic observers. While intended for domestic observer groups, it may also be of use to international, political party and candidate observers.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Guidelines for Reviewing a Legal Framework for Elections. Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR, 2001. 35 pp.

This handbook sets forth the basic components of a legal framework governing elections (e.g. election commissions, voter registration, balloting procedures) and the minimum standard that is necessary for each to ensure that an election is democratic. Its guidelines and checklists are intended for legal assessors and for parliamentarians drafting or amending election-related text.

Organization of American States. Manual for the Organization of Electoral Observation Missions in the Framework of the OAS. Washington: OAS, 2000. No pagination or URL available.

This publication is currently under revision.

United Nations, et al. Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers. Washington: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 2005. 8 + 3 pp.

These two documents, endorsed by over 20 international organizations, provide specific standards for international election observation, defining the role of observers and emphasizing the right of citizens to participate in government. While designed for use by observation missions, they may also guide representatives of the international news media who find themselves observing elections.


The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.