Election observation helps to assess the fairness, transparency, and lawful conduct of an election process. Observers do not interfere, and while they do not directly prevent electoral fraud, they may act as a deterrent.
• The primary function of election observation is to record and report problems with election integrity.
• It’s important to observe the entire process — before, during, and after the election.
• Observation must be meaningful. To watch a process, like counting ballots, is of little value unless observers can see what’s on the ballots being counted. Watching an elections worker operate a tabulation computer is meaningful only if observers can see the screen.
• The legitimacy of an election can be affected by the criticism of observers, provided that they are objective and that they document findings in a credible way.
• After observing, when publishing findings observers should include recommendations for improvement or prevention of future problems.
• Because of the political nature of elections, it is most important to collect an independent, durable, unbiased, and nonpartisan record:
– Capture a visual record (photograph or video)
– Make wise and effective use of mobile devices, like cell phones, to commit facts to permanent record, and sending images as text messages or e-mails creates a time stamp.
Election observation should be process oriented, not tied to any particular electoral result, and is concerned with results only to the degree that they are reported honestly and accurately in a transparent and timely manner.