The Project is an independent academic study with a research team based at the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Elections are commonly marred by problems such as limits on equal ballot access for opposition parties, pro-government media bias, maladministration in electoral registers, and vote-rigging at the count. New challenges surrounding campaign finance, the regulation of political broadcasting, online voting, and voter registration arise in the United States and Europe. Elsewhere even minor irregularities about voter registration or unfair ballot access have sometimes triggered instability, riots, and deadly violence. As elections have spread to almost every country around the globe, including many non-democracies, the issue of electoral integrity has generated growing concern, catalyzing a new body of research among both the academic and policy-making communities. Work has started to explore many issues, focusing upon three main questions:
Alternative concepts have often been used to understand these questions. Negative labels are common, such as ‘electoral malpractice’, ‘flawed elections’, ‘manipulated contests’, and ‘electoral fraud’. In positive terms, well-run contests are described as ‘credible’, ‘acceptable’, ‘genuine’, or the standard rhetoric of ‘free and fair’.
In the EIP research project, the core notion of ‘electoral integrity’ refers to agreed international principles and standards of elections, applying universally to all countries worldwide throughout the electoral cycle, including during the pre-electoral period, the campaign, and on polling day and its aftermath. Conversely, ‘electoral malpractice’ refers to violations of electoral integrity.