What Is PVT and How Can It Help Our Democracies?
As part of UAPDCs work, we'll be publishing news on the latest and more effective tools political parties can use to promote and protect democratic process. First up is PVT - what is it and why is it important?
Problems with standard election observation and monitoring
The two most well-known and established ways whereby a country’s electoral process can claim legitimacy in the eyes of the international community are observing and monitoring. While both prove useful, they have some drawbacks. Observation of elections is relatively toothless, and confined to ‘watching, noting and reporting’. Monitoring, the more intrusive of the two, is similarly stifled by constraints such as its missions only being allowed to go to where they are invited.
Both methods all too often concentrate on the election day itself and not the highly influential build up to it. They often have few tools at their disposal to prevent a stolen election, and are subject to the realpolitik of what happens if their report is too harsh or too lenient. Often too, even in the face of negative reporting from an observing or monitoring mission the international community lacks the will to put its head above the parapet and demand or implement meaningful sanctions.
A further problem that many countries in the developing world face is the time gap between the close of polls and the official announcement of the results; often a period of several days or even weeks. In such a period the manipulation of the vote is very possible and a fraudulent result can be reached notwithstanding reports by an observing or monitoring party that an election has been free, fair and credible.
It is this problem that the system of Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT), also known as a ‘quick vote’, addresses and becomes crucial to an honest and true election outcome. PVT is a method of independent electoral validation that maximises transparency and highlights fraudulent vote counting in a given election where the actual votes cast for a candidate or party are compared to the officially published results.
Essentially PVT works thus. A team deploys on an election day to a polling station, where it observes, say, 1000 voters voting that day. Note that due to secret ballot considerations they cannot ascertain how those voters vote, nor do they ask them, in the manner of an exit poll, how they voted when they leave the voting booth.
At the ensuing count, once polls have closed, the team will firstly ensure that the number of voters counted is indeed 1000, and then will monitor how many votes each candidate received. They will then communicate that result to the central PVT coordinator as soon as possible.
The same procedure will be conducted across many similar polling and count stations across the country. Therefore, the election’s true result- or a figure that due to the two statistical tools of the central limit theorem and the law of large numbers is closely akin to the true result- is broadcast perhaps days in advance of the ‘official’ result being announced. Thus if there is a great discrepancy between the true result and the official result there is a credible and high profile sign that the election- contrary to what an observing or monitoring mission may have said- has not been fair or true at all.