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OAS General Secretariat Launches Guide to Organizing Elections in Times of Pandemic

  July 9, 2020

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) today published the "Guide to Organizing Elections in Times of Pandemic." The guide is intended to contribute to the strengthening of political processes in member states, in particular to the maintenance of democracy as the best option to guarantee peace, security and development.

"The consequences of the pandemic, the high possibilities of contagion through human interaction, the risk of death, the application of restrictive measures, pose serious difficulties to the organization of electoral processes, so democratic alternatives must be analyzed that do not damage the legitimacy of origin of those elected, democratic transitions, the alternation of authorities and the length of the terms of government,” writes the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, in the prologue.

The Guide highlights that, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, "several countries have adopted measures to protect the health of their inhabitants, having to postpone electoral processes originally scheduled for the first half of 2020." The document adds "the actions and decisions taken in electoral matters in response to this situation require the commitment of the political system to safeguard the continuity of democratic processes."

In line with that purpose, the OAS General Secretariat, with the collaboration of the Pan American Health Organization, compiled in the guide a series of measures for the holding of safe, clean, and transparent elections, while contributing to reduce the risks of transmission of COVID-19. The guide offers elements to take into account when deciding whether to hold elections or postpone them, and proposes measures that can be adopted in the following areas:

  • Organization and electoral administration
  • Use of technology
  • Participation and inclusion
  • Campaigns
  • Communication
  • Voting and vote counting

The OAS was the first international organization to deploy an Electoral Observation Mission during the pandemic, and that experience is also reflected in this document. The measures included in the guide aim to strengthen the capacities of electoral bodies to organize elections and, in particular, protect electoral and other state officials, guarantee the right of citizens to exercise a secure vote and provide the necessary conditions for political parties to participate under conditions of equity and transparency.

The document was prepared by the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation of the Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy, with the aim of supporting member states at a time of special historical difficulty.

Reference: E-073/20