As demand for open government data increases globally, many election management bodies (EMBs) around the world are making more electoral data public in a variety of ways. As a result, citizen election observers need to be equipped to advocate for, and analyze official election data. From March 31 to April 3, 2019, representatives from citizen election observer groups from around the world, including several GNDEM member organizations, gathered in Bogota, Colombia to participate in an Open Election Data Academy conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Participants came from every continent, representing 17 organizations including 15 GNDEM members. The academy drew on NDI’s Open Election Data Initiative’ Election Data Academy, which is available to read and explore in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Burmese through practical modules on summarizing and analyzing election data.
GNDEM members who participated in the academy included, among others: BERSIH 2.0 (Malaysia), Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA, Serbia), Iniciativa Social para la Democracia (ISD, El Salvador), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED, Georgia), Misión de Observación Electoral (MOE, Colombia), Participación Ciudadana (PC, Ecuador), Participación Ciudadana (PC, Dominican Republic), YIAGA Africa (Nigeria), Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN, Zimbabwe), and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).
During the intensive four-day academy participants explored innovative practices for gathering and analyzing official election-related data on key aspects of electoral integrity, as well as best practices for communicating and visualizing findings and advocating for more open election data. Participants also discussed how to assess their country’s election data context. Working with official data, academy participants learned about tools that are available to convert data from non-machine readable formats into open formats and tools that can extract data from websites into analyzable files. Through hands-on exercises, participants learned and practiced using Excel formulas to clean, summarize, describe and analyze data. They also learned how to look for patterns in data and practiced how to present and visualize data-driven findings to convey the right messages to their target audiences. Participants shared their organizations’ experiences and highlighted lessons learned from working with and advocating for election data. For example, YIAGA Africa and Misión de Observación Electoral (MOE) demonstrated how they have gathered and analyzed official data to identify early warning signs of potential electoral violence prior to elections in Colombia.
Academy participants also learned how disinformation affects electoral integrity by undermining democratic principles and citizens’ trust in elections, as well as how open election data can be a powerful tool to counter disinformation. For example, transparent and accessible data can help election management bodies combat rumors and increase citizen observers’ ability to fact-check information and inform citizens. During the academy’s disinformation sessions, ISFED shared how they monitored social media to assess the information environment around the Georgian elections, which helped expose coordinated efforts to spread disinformation about specific candidates. Participants discussed the challenges they face with disinformation in their countries and learned about strategies and methods to monitor disinformation in their own contexts.
NDI has made the livestreams of three sessions from the academy available to watch online. These provide an opportunity for GNDEM members to learn about emerging trends in citizen election observation and how they are relevant for your organization. Find the links to the videos available in English and Spanish below:
- Overview of Open Election Data: Why it Matters and How it Can be Used
- Advocacy for Open Election Data: Getting and Asking for More Election Data
- Disinformation in Elections: How the Information Space Impacts Electoral Integrity