How do we measure and ensure the integrity of elections? It’s certainly a relevant question as we enter a presidential election year here in the United States, but it’s also important from a global perspective. “Despite the fact that elections have spread worldwide . . . the quality of elections is really bad in many, many places,” according to Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer Pippa Norris, who is director of the Electoral Integrity Project. “And that has consequences.” Norris came on the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast just over a year ago to explain why she was drawn to the subject for both theoretical and practical reasons.
From a theoretical standpoint, no one had yet devised a way to measure the integrity of a country’s elections. And from a practical perspective, having this information was key to developing policy recommendations for leaders who wished to improve the quality of elections in their countries.
To accomplish the task, Norris and her colleagues devised a 49-point questionnaire for election experts around the world, called the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) survey.
At the time of the interview, the United States’ PEI ranked just 26th in the world. A subsequent report published in 2015 had us sliding even further down to 35th, one below Mexico.