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Preventing and Responding to Election Disruption and Violence: Ten Considerations for Cities

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— 2 minutes reading time

The stakes are high for democracy in 2024 as nearly half the global population will be eligible to participate in elections to choose their leaders in at least 83 national and local contests globally. Elections are opportunities to promote the rule of law and encourage participation in local and national conversations through which citizens negotiate their interests and shape their society. They seek to give voice to and moderate diverging opinions through inclusive institutions, all of which can foster and support social cohesion. However, they do not always bring the smooth and peaceful transition or maintenance of power that a democratic nation strives for. Researchers have found that violence of some kind occurs in one in five elections globally. Furthermore, disinformation can disenfranchise and manipulate voters and undermine faith in democracy, while elections themselves can exacerbate or drive intense polarisation that damages social cohesion.

Local governments typically do not have a specific mandate for organising or overseeing elections. However, drawing on experiences from national governments and international and community partners, there are steps city leaders can take to help safeguard the election period, including in both the lead up to and following elections. Cities face varied election-related challenges, depending on the context, with differing directives and levels of support; however, there are some relevant trends and approaches that local governments should keep in mind going into their election period as they look to maintain social cohesion in and among their communities during what can be a tense period for their residents.

Drawing on the experiences of cities across its global membership, and desk research, Strong Cities has identified ten considerations to support city leaders and local governments safeguard democratic practices and mitigate potential harms during and after election periods.

  1. Enhance a city’s understanding of how information is manipulated to disrupt elections.
  2. Monitor for misleading information throughout the election.
  3. Strengthen a city’s resilience to information manipulation.
  4. Help maintain information integrity by debunking misleading content and providing reliable, up-to-date information throughout the election period.
  5. Create a plan of action for preventing and responding to election violence.
  6. Provide targeted support to groups who may be targeted by or are otherwise at risk of election violence.
  7. Commit to administer a credible, transparent and inclusive election in your city in order to help build trust in the election process.
  8. Proactively promote peace and civility throughout the election period.
  9. Cultivate an inclusive dialogue to help minimise polarisation.
  10. Promote civic engagement to build social capital and enhance social cohesion.

These considerations, elaborated in this brief, are organised around and aim to enhance cities’ understanding across three topics:

  1. Mitigating the threat of misleading information.
  2. Preventing and responding to election-related violence.
  3. Managing polarisation and promoting social cohesion.