The term ‘electoral compliance units’ is not widely understood by electoral scholars or practitioners in the field of electoral assistance. In the absence of a more concrete definition, this report understands ‘electoral compliance units’ to mean agencies or mechanisms that investigate and prosecute election-related fraud and breaches of law. Experts indicate that, rather than through specific, separate bodies, electoral laws are largely monitored and enforced by: legal departments within Election Management Bodies (EMBs), Election Commissions (EC), or the executive branch; specialised courts such as Election Tribunals; or Parliamentary Hearings.
There is very little evaluative literature on mechanisms that could be classified under the ‘election compliance unit’ description. However, the available literature identifies some important aspects to consider when engaging in electoral compliance-related interventions. These include:
- Clear jurisdiction – Electoral compliance units should have a clear jurisdiction with relevant legislation defining aspects such as the required burden of proof and the body’s standing
- Membership – The membership of compliance or adjudication bodies should be carefully managed. Appointees should be non-partisan if possible and recommended by bodies such as courts, universities, and human rights organisations
- Terms and planning – Bodies should be given appropriate planning and approval periods, to allow for pre-election preparation
- Communications and civic education – Public confidence in the electoral system can be an important determinant for electoral success. Voter education programmes can help to give legitimacy to an elected government, aid stabilisation, and make the public aware of complaints procedures
- Coordination among experts – Establish a coordination system at the expert level to encourage cooperation and sharing among experts