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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Using digital technology and social media for voter education
Voter Education is an important and necessary stage in any electoral process. In transitional democracies wherever a complex electoral system exists, or using new procedures or modern technology and whenever they call to simplify the concepts and clarify procedures and explain the details of the operation polling day, dissemination of information and voter education becomes a priority.

After accumulating extensive experience in numerous electoral processes and in electoral education in over a decade the independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has established new Institute specializing in electoral education to promote a culture of Sustainable electoral voters.

Since the next parliamentary elections is bound to happen during the month of May 2018, IHEC will use new sorting and counting machines (electronic ballot box) for the first time, after successfully using electronic voter cards and verification devices during the previous election in 2014. The Iraqi Electoral Commission found it necessary to broaden the definition of advertising and promotional campaign. Election mechanism will be using modern equipment in the future, Voter cards will be received by voters who tag their data. The message on elections was spread through the following methods:

  1. Programs which were broadcast via satellite channels (These channels were hired for the duration of the campaigns).
  2. Seminars, programs and interactive sessions to educate voters in all the aspects.
  3. Use of social networking sites by launching a special hashtag Office of the Iraqi elections, and posting pictures, posters and videos to explain procedures for polling day.
  4. Coordination with international organizations such as the Organization of NDI through participatory programs to educate candidates for elections in electoral education Institute.
  5. Displaying large advertisements on highways using giant screens, on high roofs in cities and in crowded places as also at intersections within cities.

The important of these methods is to use community media, big screens, plus satellite TV as it is an effective medium to reach out to maximum number of voters.

NewsLetter Electronic ballot box facilitates voting and counting electronically. In addition to that, use of updated card for voters, as well as using electronic sealed checks paper ballots instead of the pen, is a fruitful exercise.

IHEC found that using an easy and effective manner and reaching the largest number of voters, special sites on social media platforms can be useful. Pictures and graphics can be included for the purpose of delivering clear information to voters.

Online technology has been used by allowing online registration of Iraqis outside of Iraq and in all countries where this program was put on the official website. Iraqi voter can register his name as an elector entitled to vote in an election abroad. After registering online, one should keep the paper mentioning QR code and take the same at the polling station as a proof of his registration.

Other uses of electronic technology is to create a virtual library on the website with a wide range of sources, research papers and surveys on elections and democracy. Electoral Education Institute has another electronic library which is bigger and more diverse. It is useful for researchers and IHEC staff as well as all partners of the electoral process.

Finally, with the use of new devices for sorting and counting in the next elections, the results also will go directly by vesat from the polling centers to the tally-center in Baghdad. Then the results can be announced on big screens to the people so that everyone can see the results directly by using this advanced technology.

Hence, the use of modern technology in electoral education contributes to significantly reduce the time and effort required to sensitize and educate the broad categories and different sectors of the electorate, which no doubt will have a positive impact on the transparency and integrity of the electoral process.

 Safaa Ibrahim AL- Musawi,
Electoral expert / former commissioner of IHEC - IRAQ