The democracy and governance community lacks systematic data to predict the cost of credible elections, including both basic requirements for election administration and the resources needed to pursue emerging solutions. Clear and accessible cost data would enable donors, implementers, and local partners to make informed decisions about investments, understand the resource implications of pursuing high-tech or low-tech options, and identify the most cost-effective solutions that also meet standards and principles associated with democratic elections. Providing access to comparative, evidence-based data on the real cost of election administration will improve transparency around procurement and budgeting decisions, reduce risks of financial mismanagement and corruption in procurement processes, and better inform reform efforts from a cost perspective.
The ECEE project will first focus on formulating up-to-date definitions for types of election administration costs (first presented in the Cost of Registration and Elections (CORE) publication) and a standard set of categories for data collection. The definitions and cost categories will be validated by a core group of EMBs and academics. Other key actors will be engaged in this process, including International IDEA, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD), to ensure the broadest possible buy-in.
To collect cost data, CEPPS/IFES will use its well-established electoral management body (EMB) network and country offices to obtain budgets from election authorities and other state institutions engaged in the electoral pro- cess. CEPPS/IFES has a global Memorandum of Under- standing with the UNDP, which has agreed to collaborate
in obtaining election cost data. Given the sensitive nature of the data, CEPPS/IFES will use former senior EMB officials to facilitate data collection in certain countries, as needed. The cost data may be collected using a mix of surveys, actual budgets, direct interviews, as well as existing data points from the Varieties of Democracy (V-DEM) Institute, Elector- al Integrity Project, and other academic endeavors.
Data will be provided to the public via a web-based portal that will enable users to query data using pertinent variables. This tool will position USAID, other donors, partner governments, EMBs, and technical service providers to understand the true costs of election administration, to inform planning and implementation, and to improve transparency in the prioritization and allocation of election resources. This web-based solution will enable continuous data updates rather than relying on the static presentation and case studies used in CORE.