The effects of centralising electoral management board design

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Abstract

The public administration of elections frequently fails. Variation in the performance of electoral management boards around the world has been demonstrated, illustrated by delays in the count, inaccurate or incomplete voter registers, or severe queues at polling stations. Centralising the management of the electoral process has often been proposed as a solution. There has been little theorisation and no empirical investigations into the effects that centralising an already decentralised system would have, however. This article addresses this lacuna by conceptualising centralisation through the literature on bureaucratic control and discretion. It then empirically investigates the effects through a case study of centralisation in two UK referendums. Semi-structured interviews were used with those who devised the policy instrument and those who were subject to it. The introduction of central directions had some of the desired effects such as producing more consistent services and eliminating errors. It also had side effects, however, such as reducing economic efficiency in some areas and overlooking local knowledge. Furthermore, the reforms caused a decline of staff morale, job satisfaction and souring of relations among stakeholder organisations. The process of making organisational change therefore warrants closer attention by policy makers and future scholarship on electoral integrity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-148
Number of pages19
JournalPolicy Studies
Volume38
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Electoral integrity
  • electoral management body
  • voter registration
  • electoral reform

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