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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Overview of Voter Education in Georgia

NewsLetter Centre for Electoral Systems Development, Reforms and Trainings (Training Centre) of Georgia was established on January 6, 2010 according to the amendments made to the Election Code of Georgia. The Training Centre wears the status of legal entity of public law and appears to be an active partner of Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC). The Mission of the Training Centre is related to encouraging the development of an environment within which free, fair, transparent and participative elections may take place. In line with the mission, one of the most important strategic goals for the Training Centre appears to be supporting electoral culture development. On that basis, the Training Centre focuses on the precise objectives related to the promotion of the intensive informational campaigns in order to reach successfully the outcome of having increased activity and credibility among voters and other stakeholders. As it stands for Georgian election administration and its Training Centre, one of the most effective tools and ways to tackle the challenges is civic and voter education. The evaluation of the authoritative, independent, international and local organizations, as well as the data of public opinion research has proved that voter/civic education appears to be the element of crucial importance for increasing electoral participation towards the elections. In regard to voter/civic education, the Training Centre launches active effort work covering the following target groups of voters: young voters (students, school pupils), ethnic minorities, women, disabled people, and the accused people. Electoral culture development initiatives are intensively implemented in election and non-election period in two ways: informing voters and educating voters.

NewsLetter Informing Voters focuses on providing society with information to explain voting procedures and types of elections. In this direction, the Training Centre ensures the preparation of various materials (Illustrated brochures; Educational films; Voter E-learning programs) and organizes informative events, here are some examples:
• Students’ debate-clubs were created with the purpose of motivating young people as well as increasing awareness, with debates being organized annually. The winning team is given certificates of achievements. The topic of the latest debates among the students was gender related issues in the elections:
• CEC has opened election exhibition at its own premises and hosts on permanent basis for young voters, including representatives of ethnic minorities, enabling youth to learn about history of the Elections in Georgia and relevance of elections in promoting Democracy;
• Different open air Campaigns are held during election periods. The recent one was “Umbrella Campaign”, where the goal of the campaign was to promote civic activity of voters for the second round of parliamentary elections 2016. A large number of voters had joined under the symbolic “Election Umbrella” and to demonstrate readiness of active participation in elections, they dropped green cards with the inscription - I am Active Voter in a ballot box. Educating Voters is oriented towards increasing the awareness of voters on the importance of the elections in the democracy, their fundamental rights of electing own representatives and to motivate the active participation of citizens in the electoral process. Some of the successful innovative projects are highlighted below:
NewsLetter • On the primary study level of the project, ‘Elections and Young Voters’ is implemented for public schools’ students of XI-XII grade. The initiative is aimed at the enhancement of civic electoral awareness among youth. Project is achieved successfully in cooperation with ministry of education of Georgia and covers Public schools in ethnic minority and high mountain municipalities;
• On a fundamental study level, the study course in the Electoral Law is delivered in 19 universities for one semester, according to the curriculum designed by the Training Centre. The project aims to promote electoral culture development of youth and to enhance necessary professional knowledge and practical skills of students of law and journalism faculties;
• On informative introductory study level, CEC Georgia and Training Centre has developed “Electoral Development Schools” project. It aims at increasing civil engagement in the electoral process and contributes to the promotion of electoral issues among citizens. The curriculum of 10 days trainings developed by the Training Centre gives the opportunity to the participants to receive knowledge on electoral issues including: electoral systems, election administration, electoral stakeholders, and democratic electoral principles. The project was piloted in 10 election districts and aims to expand and cover the whole Georgia gradually;
• On Specialized study level, the Training Centre has introduced “Electoral Administrator Courses”. The course offers the study of polling procedures and is aimed at the enhancement of civic awareness around electoral matters and at the same time, contributes to the formation of potential election administration officers’ database and qualified human resources for other electoral stakeholders.
NewsLetter • Series of Grant Competitions are provided by CEC and Training Centre encouraging the involvement of NGO sector in the process of promoting the voting culture and increasing voter activity in the elections. Grant competitions are held on an annual basis targeting the groups of young voters, voters with disabilities, ethnic minorities and women. Numerous important steps and efforts are made to promote electoral culture development in Georgia. There have also been some tangible evidences that voters’ awareness and engagement with the electoral process has increased considerably. The benefits of voter education projects are still resounding in Georgia with increasing the network of partners on local and international level and implementing new initiatives in regard to foster the democratic development of the society.

Natia Zaalishvili
Training Centre Director, Georgia