What does a quick count provide? What must be planned for a quick count? A quick count is a powerful method for monitoring elections. Observers watch the voting and counting processes at selected polling stations, record key information on standardised forms and report their findings to a central data collection centre. Quick count methodology is used to evaluate the overall quality of election day processes and to verify official election results.
This guide, produced for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, highlights best practice and offers statistical guidance and case study examples for organising and conducting a quick count (QC), to be adapted for country-specific circumstances. QCs are not substitutes for more comprehensive election monitoring since they focus on just the election day itself. QCs usually provide an independent check on official election results and a qualitative analysis of election day processes. Where distrust in the electoral process is high, QCs can promote confidence in official results.
An organisation should not conduct a QC unless it is confident that it can execute it successfully. An effective volunteer network is promoted by having both sufficient resources and an identified sample early in the process, and by recruiting from all sectors of society. The development of a core database will increase the efficiency of information management. Groups undertaking QCs must be seen by key audiences as competent and non-partisan or, where this is not possible, politically balanced. QC data must be reliable and valid.
- When sponsored by non-partisan civic organisations, QCs can empower citizens within government affairs; build local and organisational capacity for future democracy projects/participation; and provide reliable and comprehensive information
- Groups conducting QCs should thoroughly understand QC methodology; establish clear goals based on the local political context; and ensure they have access to polling stations, counting centres and adequate funding
- In the first weeks of organising a QC, leaders must decide the composition and duties of a board of directors; hire qualified and dedicated staff; complete significant strategic planning; design a realistic budget; and solicit funds from various sources
- Communications infrastructure should be planned around estimates of peak information loads and pay special attention to both retrieving data from remote areas and compensating for country-specific infrastructure weaknesses
- QCs should be ‘wrapped up’ with activities such as debriefings; thanks to volunteers; best practice and lessons learnt; recommendations for reforms; and strategic plans for the organiser’s future.
QCs require expertise in political dynamics, grassroots organising and sampling theory, and some capacity with information technology. Experienced statisticians should construct the QC random sample and analyse its results.
- Non-partisan organisations conducting QCs should start planning and fundraising about a year before the election, and must complete a simulation of the election day two weeks before the event
- Groups should foster support and transparency by building a productive relationship with the election commission; running an ‘external relations’ programme targeting key audiences; and launching a strong media campaign
- Concerning volunteer networks, groups must: Design observer forms and instruction manuals; recruit volunteers across the country; train volunteers on the electoral process and their duties; and manage the logistics to recruit, train and support the network
- The qualitative component of QCs should: Use the same methodology and observers as the vote count; prepare short forms based on contextual analysis; and prepare the final analysis well in advance, including testing and protocols for data release
- Two statements or press conferences should be held on election day by QC organisers: The first at midday concerning the opening of the polls, and the second to release vote count data
- Organisations should be prepared for rapid-response activities in the case of urgent situations resulting from major problems in the election process.