Would elections be better run if they were organised centrally by the state? Or should local electoral officials be given more discretion to accommodate local preferences?
This debate has ran most prominently for decades in the US. But there has been little academic research on the topic. I’m therefore pleased to see my article on this in volume 38, issue 1 of Policy Studies.
If you have access, the article is here. If not, feel free to email me and ask for a copy and I’ll happily send it over.
Here’s the abstract:
‘The public administration of elections frequently fails. Variation in the performance of electoral management bodies around the world has been demonstrated, illustrated by delays in the count, inaccurate or incomplete voter registers, or severe queues at polling stations. Centralising the management of the electoral process has often been proposed as a solution. There has been little theorisation and no empirical investigations into the effects that centralising an already decentralised system would have, however. This article addresses this lacuna by conceptualising centralisation through the literature on bureaucratic control and discretion. It then empirically investigates the effects through a case study of centralisation in two UK referendums. Semi-structured interviews were used with those who devised the policy instrument and those who were subject to it. The introduction of central directions had some of the desired effects such as producing more consistent services and eliminating errors. It also had side effects, however, such as reducing economic efficiency in some areas and overlooking local knowledge. Furthermore, the reforms caused a decline of staff morale, job satisfaction and souring of relations amongst stakeholder organisations. The process of making organisational change therefore warrants closer attention by policy-makers and future scholarship on electoral integrity.’