The Electoral Psychology Observatory has designed an interactive Electoral Ergonomics Almanac which enables registered users to access our database of electoral ergonomics and organisation across leading electoral democracies. The almanac features useful country cards, maps, and thought pieces on key elements of electoral ergonomics such as comparing the remote voting options that can be used to facilitate citizens’ vote, understanding the key aspects of polling station design, or evaluating measures used to optimise the electoral experience of key target categories including first time voters, voters suffering from mental and learning disabilities, etc.
Michael Bruter and Sarah Harrison from the Electoral Psychology Observatory introduced the concept of ‘Electoral Ergonomics’ [see publications], which encompasses the way in which all small aspects of electoral design – such as the format of ballot papers, remote voting options (internet, postal, advance, etc.), or station design, which are typically assumed to be neutral in electoral effects actually interact with voters’ psychological reactions to affect voters’ experience, satisfaction, turnout and electoral choice.
We also coined the concept of “effective access to the vote”, which aggregates all aspects of registration, vulnerable categories accessibility, and ability to vote for all citizens on Election Day or through remote voting into one measure which we promote as the key synthetic metric of the quality of electoral democracy across systems. Designing electoral procedures which meet the psychological needs of citizens – both for the general population and for the most vulnerable voter categories (such as first time voters, disabled voters, voters with literacy problems, etc.) is crucial.
Our ERC funded project ‘Inside the Mind of a Voter’ has opened up collaboration with multiple Electoral Commissions (UK, South Africa, Australia, Georgia, Los Angeles County…) and IGOs (European Commission, Council of Europe…) and we hope that this online Almanac of Electoral Ergonomics will become a key resource for practitioners in the field. The resource is fully searchable by country, category, and instruments with interactive content.
- Collate information on all of our key electoral ergonomics items (type of ballot paper used, remote voting solutions used, first time voters initiatives, solutions used to facilitate the vote of disabled citizens, etc.) as well as key electoral information (election cycles and systems, civic education provisions, voting age, etc.) for every country worldwide. No such systematic information exists at the moment;
- Propose qualitative assessment of some key aspects of electoral democracy such as disabled voters provisions, first time voters inclusion, and one of our other new concepts, entitled “Effective Access to the Vote” which measures the proportion of voters who are both registered to vote and able to use their registration to effectively vote in a given election if they so wish, and highlight cases of best practice;
- Offer key conceptual definitions and discussions about our key research findings and concepts (such as electoral ergonomics and effective access to the vote as discussed above) that would be both in depth and phrased in ways that would be accessible to (knowledgeable but non-scientific) non-academic users.
Note that accessing the Electoral Ergonomics Almanac requires registration, but registration is currently free. Our conditions of use require that the Almanac cannot be used for commercial purposes.
The Almanac is updated periodically. We welcome further information from Election Management Bodies as well as pro-active updates and suggestions of further categories.
WHAT IS ELECTORAL ERGONOMICS?
We define electoral ergonomics as the interface between electoral arrangements and the psychological needs of voters. This means that we focus on all aspects of electoral organisation which have an impact on voters’ key attitudes (electoral satisfaction, efficacy, trust, etc), turnout, and/or electoral choice. Those range from the design of ballot paper, use of diverse forms of remote voting, choice of the day of election (weekday, Sunday, election day designed as public holiday), use and design of voting machines, organisation of polling stations, forms of id checks, etc to specific initiatives and regulations pertaining to individual voter categories (first time voters, disabled voters, illiterate voters, specific ethnic, linguistic, or cultural minorities, in some countries, female voters, etc).
In term of case selection, we will include every country which can be defined as a full or partial electoral democracy. As an operational criterion, we will include any political system which has achieved the individually designed “pass mark” in at least one of the following three rankings: Economist Intelligence Unit (Electoral Process category, score of 5/10 or above), Freedom House (Political Rights category, score of 4/7 or below), Electoral Integrity Project (Electoral Integrity Index score of 50 or above). In their latest rankings, those would individually result in 104, 137, and 109 political systems respectively. Some will have new rankings published by the time we start the project which we will use. In total, we will therefore include between 140 and 150 political systems in the Almanac.
Additionally, within the US, even for national elections, individual counties have individual electoral ergonomic procedures on a number of criteria. Unfortunately, with 3,142 counties or equivalent across the US, it would be impossible to include data for them all. However, in addition to the country-wide data for the US, we will include a focus point on approximately 20 counties including all of the 14 counties with a population of over 2 million inhabitants and another 6-8 used to ensure a diverse representation of US counties in our focus. Note that in electoral terms, states actually have a very limited relevance (electoral ergonomics can differ far more between two counties within the same state than from state to state) and is therefore not a suitable unit of presentation.
In other political systems, differences may exist but typically only affect sub-national elections. In such cases, differences will be noted as part of the national profile but not lead to separate entries (e.g. UK, Canada, etc).
In terms of operationalisation, we will include factual information on approximately 20 sub-categories of electoral ergonomics, accounting for approximately 100 instruments. Our qualitative section will likely focus on 5 categories as will the case studies of best practice.
Overall, the project aims to improve the quality of electoral democracy worldwide by providing decision makers (Election Management Bodies) and influencers (International Organisations, NGOs) with research based-knowledge understanding of how the choices that they make in each aspect of the design and organisation of electoral procedures affects the attitudes (satisfaction, efficacy, sense of representation, trust), their turnout, and potentially distorts the electoral choice of voters in general and specific under-represented categories (first time voters, disabled voters, vulnerable minorities).
We want to ensure that voters’ best interests are always taken into account when such procedures are designed or reformed to optimise satisfaction, accountability, turnout, and transparency worldwide.