Contact: PIANZEA Secretariat
email: pianzea.secretariat@aec.gov.au
phone: +61 2 6271 4432

PIANZEA - Pacific Electoral Administrators and Pacific Elections

2017 General Voter Registration System (GVRS) Learning Clinic

The 2017 GVRS Learning Clinic was held in Brisbane, Australia from 21 to 25 August. The PIANZEA GVRS is a software package designed to support most Voter Registration system requirements of Election Management Bodies (EMB) in countries with small to medium populations. The software is structured so that additional EMB specific requirements can be met with minimal cost and risk through a mixture user configuration, system configuration and targeted software customisation.

Countries that participated in the clinic included Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia. The clinic was arranged following a request at the PIANZEA Advisory Group meeting in March 2017.

The clinic covered the following topics

 

- IT governance;

- GVRS deployment options, including customisation and remote access;

- Elector data entry and maintenance;

- GVRS reporting and output options;

- ID card products and software packages; and

- Biometric components and usage.


In addition to the presentation content, Australian Electoral Commission GVRS experts, Mr Peter Dry and Dr David Carr provided country specific technical support and customisation services.

A number of PIANZEA member countries had small enhancements and data issues that they wished to see addressed. These changes were undertaken as a background activity with the User Acceptance Testing (UAT), release and installation of the software changes serving as practical training in some of the governance topics covered earlier.

This was the third clinic with previous clinics held in 2013 and 2014. The clinics provide an opportunity for users of the system to discuss questions, implement upgrades and customisation, learn about potential areas for expansion and ways to better govern information technology software and hardware in their EMB.

Attendees also had the opportunity to network with representatives from across the region. There is a strong desire for future clinics.

 

Breaking down boundaries in the Pacific

The PIANZEA Secretariat, supported by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), conducted a BRIDGE workshop in Canberra, Australia on Boundary Delimitation for Polynesian members of the PIANZEA network. Funding for this capacity building program in electoral administration was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

 

The aim of the workshop was to further develop knowledge and capacity of Pacific Electoral Management Body (EMB) staff to explore alternative approaches to boundary delimitation; to introduce the main principles underlying a credible and acceptable boundary delimitation process; and to experience delimitation tasks such as allocating seats, producing databases of maps and data, evaluating district plans and preparing an operational plan for the conduct of a delimitation process. The workshops also provided opportunity for five BRIDGE PIANZEA facilitators to gain further experience in planning, observing and presenting BRIDGE. Participants attending the workshops were from Tonga (3), Samoa (4), Tuvalu (4), Cook Islands (4), Niue (3) and Australia (5).

The workshop was opened by Ms Alice Cawte, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional Branch, DFAT. Mr Kevin Kitson, First Assistant Commissioner, Network Operations, AEC joined the group at the close of the workshops to issue certificates to participants. Mr Jonathan Nicholl, Assistant Commissioner, Education & Communications Branch AEC also attended the workshop.

 

The workshops were facilitated by Ms Cate Thompson (AEC), Mr Jiv Sekhon (AEC), Mr Ah Kau Palale (Samoa), Ms Michelle Aisake (Cook Islands) and Ms Vake Blake (Tonga). Michelle Aisake and Vake Blake joined the core facilitation team to facilitate on one day each and were participants for the remainder of the time.

 

The workshop was chosen due to the demand from Polynesian members, particularly Samoa and Tonga, to increase their level of understanding on boundary delimitation issues for future needs. Other PIANZEA members in Polynesia also benefitted from exposure to these issues which assisted consideration of their existing arrangements regarding electoral boundaries.

 

The workshop consisted of four days of selected activities from the Boundary Delimitation module. Areas covered included: key terms in boundary delimitation; the impact of electoral systems on boundary delimitation; the principles of good boundary delimitation; structuring boundary delimitation authorities; the legal framework; boundary delimitation procedures; boundary delimitation criteria; and data and operational planning for boundary delimitation.

 

The participants and facilitators created an enjoyable atmosphere of sharing where participants reflected openly on their particular challenges and experiences. Discussions were enriched by examples from Australia’s redistribution processes and sharing of country situations and practices from the Pacific.

 

Participant feedback on both the workshop content and facilitator presentation was highly positive. There was a particular appreciation of the ability to network and share the experiences, knowledge and points of view of participants from the different countries and electoral environments involved.

 

Positive participant feedback included:

 

  • The workshop provided a fantastic introduction to boundary delimitation…The participatory approach was very enjoyable and facilitation fantastic. Thank you for the opportunity to attend

 

  • I felt more comfortable and have a fair idea of what boundary delimitation is. This topic is new to me and we have no procedures in our country. I believe that when I return, I will be able to assist and give advice to our electoral office

 

  • The workshop was delivered in an engaging, participatory and thought-provoking manner. I particularly enjoyed the interactive discussions and exercises as well as the opportunity to share experiences in different contexts and from various perspectives.

 

  • I have really enjoyed this week at BRIDGE….I am pleased that I came because I have recognized the need for some changes to occur in regards to boundary delimitation…new skills learnt such as knowing the criteria of drawing boundaries, the impacts, advantages and disadvantages of boundary delimitation…I love the experience.

 

PIANZEA jointly sponsored the first ever Pacific Regional Dialogue on Disability Rights in Elections. This event was jointly sponsored by the IFES, AEC/PIANZEA, Pacific Disability Forum (PDF), PIFS and FEO. During the conference, EMB representatives from Samoa, Palau and Australia shared their experiences in providing services for people with disabilities including AEC’s services for blind and low vision voters and its Disability Advisory Committee (DAC). During the meeting FEO announced its intention to establish a similar advisory committee and Palau committed to establish a focal point for engagement on disability issues. Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) also discussed the particular challenges of women and indigenous  people with disabilities and their strategies for advocacy and leadership in this area. 

On the final day, a BRIDGE workshop on disability access was jointly facilitated by IFES, AEC and FEO for all participants. The workshop introduced the mixed group of participants (DPOs and EMBs) to disability rights and standards (such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities and viable entry points in the electoral cycle to address barriers to participation for persons with disabilities.  

 

 

 

Pacific Electoral Networks Meeting

The PIANZEA Network jointly organised a Pacific Electoral Networks meeting with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Fijian Elections Office from 9-11 May. 

The PENS meeting was the first opportunity to bring the Commonwealth Electoral Network and the PIANZEA networks together. The event was opened by the Fijian Minister for Elections, Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum; Chairman of the Commonwealth Electoral Network, Mr Issack Hassan; Director, Political Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, Mr Simon Gimson; and First Assistant Commissioner, AEC, Mr Kevin Kitson. 

 The meeting united representatives from 16 Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the Pacific to discuss challenges to electoral integrity from the perspective of EMBs. Discussions focused on the central nature of EMB independence and impartiality and the need to build EMB capacity across the electoral cycle. Participants noted challenges in the Pacific where resources for independent institutions are constrained, EMBs operate on minimal staffing levels and electoral institutions are often not established on a permanent or independent basis.  

Discussions also focused on the need for transparency and inclusion in the electoral process including for women, people with disabilities and rural/remote voters. Participants discussed the opportunities for EMBs to take a lead role in ensuring electoral services are widely accessible, as well as promoting employment, leadership and training practices that emphasise the leadership potential of people from marginalised communities. 

The meeting also focused on the role and importance of electoral observation in establishing standards for electoral integrity and the role EMBs played in these efforts. The critical role of EMBs in leading observation missions and in addressing recommendations from observer groups was discussed. An outcomes statement for the conference is attached.

 The conference was enriched by the participation of several international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International IDEA, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Melanesian Spearhead Group. 

 

Australian Election Visitor Program

As part of the Australian Federal Election, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) hosted an election visitor program in Canberra from Thursday 30 June to Monday 4 July 2016. Participants included 42 delegates from electoral management bodies, electoral organisations and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Those in attendance included members of the PIANZEA network from Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The program provided a forum for discussion about Australia’s electoral environment and information sharing around good governance and best-practice electoral processes.

Delegates engaged in sessions with senior AEC officials around key Australian electoral processes. An expert panel of senior AEC officials made themselves available to the delegates to discuss aspects of the Australian electoral process. Discussion centred on the recent reform measures the AEC had undergone, with keen interest in the scanning of Senate ballot papers.

On day two, the delegates participated in an education experience at the National Electoral Education Centre that included a multi-media presentation that explores the history of Australian democracy, hands-on activities which helped the delegates to understand enrolment, voting and representation, and voting in a simulated election and then counting votes to achieve a result.

On Election Day the delegates witnessed polling in urban and rural polling places in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Once polls closed the delegates witnessed the initial count of the House of Representatives ballots and the involvement of candidate scrutineers in the process.

Participant feedback and participation throughout the program were both positive. Comments noted that it provided delegates with ‘ideas that if implemented will enhance our own electoral system’

Closing remarks of the program were by the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, Kathryn Toohey.

Links

Changes to Senate Voting: http://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/counting/senate_count.htm

Australian Electoral Commission: www.aec.gov.au

Federal Election results: http://vtr.aec.gov.au/HouseDefault-20499.htm

National Electoral Education Centre: http://education.aec.gov.au/visit-us/

 

Cook Islands National Elections

Melanesia Electoral Systems Workshop

The PIANZEA program delivered a five-day BRIDGE workshop on electoral systems in Honiara, Solomon Islands from 7-11 March 2016. The workshop was conducted by a team of PIANZEA facilitators (Fiji, Australia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu). Twenty two participants from Melanesian PIANZEA members (Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and PNG) took part in the workshop which was formally opened by the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Mr Andrew Byrne and Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, Mr Alphonsus Pero. The workshop introduced comparative electoral systems and sought to: 1) introduce alternative approaches to and classification of electoral systems; 2) introduce the main principles and criteria for electoral system design; and 3) consider the implications of alternative electoral systems on the various groups in society, their cost, and on the sustainability of electoral institutions. The module aims to help participants understand how to determine the respective pros and cons of the different electoral systems and their suitability for particular jurisdictions. workshop content responds to an identified emerging need among PIANZEA members to better understand and appreciate the merits of different electoral system designs.