By Stephen Kaufman
Your country’s election or referendum is meaningless if you and your fellow voters don’t believe it is legitimate. If you have good reasons to think your vote isn’t being counted, the contest is rigged toward a certain party or candidate, or the process favors certain voters over others, why would you accept the outcome?
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, has worked in more than 135 countries since 1987 — including more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa — to increase the legitimacy of electoral processes. It cites Article 21 from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the basic framework and rights that every election should follow:
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
This helps explain why there are election monitors, laws that protect the voting rights of women and minorities, and the need for independent news coverage throughout the process.
As you ask yourself the following questions, remember voting is only one part of a citizen’s responsibilities. Stay engaged, because elected officials need to be held accountable!