THE ROLE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN ELECTIONS
Conference Concept Paper
The 22nd Annual Conference and General Assembly Meeting of the Association of European Electoral Officials (ACEEEO) organized on 12 – 14 September, 2013 in Warsaw by the National Electoral Commission of Poland in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Association reflected to two phenomena of the 21th century that entirely transform the world of elections and the work of the election management bodies.
I. "DEVELOPMENT OF TECHNOLOGIES IN ELECTION PROCESSES SINCE 2000"
In 2000 the topic of the 9th ACEEEO Annual Conference held also in Warsaw was Introduction and use of information technology in elections.
The period since then brought very rapid technological development of equipment and tools used in all areas of the social life, including the electoral procedures not only promoting the computerization of its various phases, but also increasing the possibility of information and education and the involvement of all election participants in elections.
Therefore, the year of 2000 was the time for discussing on how to introduce information technology in electoral matters, but in 2013 the development of this procedure shall be reviewed and new targets shall be set.
E-voting and the use of voting machines are themes having been frequently discussed in the last decades but using of ICT technologies in electoral procedure is a much broader topic: at the present time, the work of electoral management bodies is hardly conceivable without computerized systems used in several stages of the electoral process (e. g. boundary delimitation, financial planning, voter registration, control of nominations, counting of votes and voting results tabulation). Concerning the use of ICT systems in electoral procedure, questions about the method of operation and relevant procurement process also arise.
The 22nd ACEEEO Conference was therefore a forum where achievements of electoral management bodies in the application of modern techniques and technologies supporting their work; technological challenges faced by the organizers of elections, but also their responsibility for ensuring the security of information tools applied as well as the reliability and transparency of information procedures was presented.
II. "THE CHALLENGES OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA DEVELOPMENT IN ELECTION MATTERS"
How do young people get information on the world around them, politics, news - and on elections? Ten years ago, the answer to that question would have been enumeration of traditional communication tools as posters, leaflets, press advertisements and TV spots. However, in the last decade the appearance and swift spread of social media tools changed our concept on forms of communication.
Application and use of Instant Messaging (Skype, MSN Messanger, Gadu-Gadu in Poland etc.) and social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, etc.) mean new challenges that also electoral stakeholders should face.
Electoral management bodies are concerned by the topic in at least in two ways. On the first hand, they should use these new tools to impart election-related, non-partisan information with voters in an effective way. However, an undoubted concern for the electoral authorities, which use or will be using in the near future the above mentioned forms of communications with the society is the possibility of the occurrence of cyberbullying.
On the other hand, the use of social media tools alters also the political campaign. Electoral legislation and the practice of electoral dispute management bodies should reflect on these changes, especially taking into consideration matters like campaign financing, campaign ban, equality of candidates and nominating organizations, etc.
The 22nd ACEEEO conference offered an exceptional opportunity to participants to exchange their experiences in these topics and learn more about best practices in these fields.