Beyond Voting: Using Ushahidi to help citizens protect their elections

May 21, 2015

Elections are an important and integral aspect of democracy, meant as a mechanism with which citizens hold their leaders to account for past actions and future promises. When citizens are enabled to actively contribute to an environment in which a free and fair election can take place, it will become less attractive for politicians to meddle in elections and stimulate the emergence of truly citizen-oriented politics.

Technology such as Ushahidi can assist in the creation of a more rapid reporting and alert system than traditional electoral monitoring, as well as bring in the voice of citizens as a new dimension in electoral monitoring through crowdsourcing. When citizens see that their voices can make a difference, it will become more attractive to be politically engaged.

Collaboration between civil society, technologists and ordinary citizens around national online election platforms is one effective way to bring this about. This platform can be used as a source of information to assess the freeness and fairness of the election process as well as picking out incidents requiring urgent action from electoral or security authorities. The incentive for citizens to engage by sending in messages is therefore not only the promise of adding a voice to the overall assessment of their own election, but also the promise that serious incidents would be relayed to those who could act upon and solve them.

Making elections more open, honest, and peaceful was the impetus for starting Ushahidi, and it remains part of our core mission. We’ve been very active in helping organizations deploy and use our software to crowdsource election monitoring over the years since 2008, and have gained a wealth of experience in doing so. Here are 3 examples of how we got involved with election monitoring initiatives, what we did, and what we learned from each deployment.

Uchaguzi Kenya (2013 Kenyan General Election)

Uchaguzi Kenya was a deployment set up to help Kenya have a free fair, peaceful and credible general election in 2013. Uchaguzi mobilises citizens to be directly involved in protecting their vote and electoral process. This strategy is implemented through a broad network of civil society around Uchaguzi as the national citizen centred electoral observation platform that responds to citizen observations. Uchaguzi used two main tools for this.

Partnerships: Uchaguzi was a collaboration between the Constitution & Reform Education Consortium (CRECO) a network of civil society organisations committed to promoting constitutionalism, democratic governance and institutional excellence through coordination and capacity building of CSOs, Hivos an international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues and Ushahidi. Other partners included the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, the iHub, Map Kibera, Mercy Corps, Tuvuke Campaign, PACT Kenya, UN Women amongst many others.

Technology: The second tool, used coordinate this strategy and the partners, was the Ushahidi deployment

Uchaguzi - Kenya 2013 Elections project
Uchaguzi - Kenya 2013 Elections project

On the ground the Uchaguzi partnership has 259 Uchaguzi Supervisors directing 777 Uchaguzi Observers around 5 regional clusters across Kenya. In the situation room we had 239 digital volunteers organised into 11 different Situation Room teams, which operate 24/7 for 7 days. We upgraded our best in class crowdsourcing platform to allow these teams working to process and verify over 5,000 messages.

Mozambique Election

Mozambique based NGO, Olho do Cidadao launched their project, Txeka-la, to empower ordinary citizens to observe and report on the 2014 Presidential Election through the use of their mobile phones. Txeka-la, which is Mozambican slang for “check it out”, was powered by Ushahidi.

Ushahidi not only acted as the technology partner in this case, but also provided extensive training to the election monitoring team, advised on running situation room throughout the election, and helped process incoming reports during the election.

Ushahidi staff training Mozambique volunteers prior to the elections


During the 2012 USA Presidential Election the Ushahidi tool was utilized by the The Election Protection Committee, and supported by Craig Connects, as the enterprise system to monitor thousands of incoming reports. The system was used by over 1200 trained lawyers who answered calls, texts, tweets, and emails from people having issues voting. The mapping of the reports allowed for the responders to search via county and respond immediately to important issues.

In addition, the Ushahidi team mapped all the polling location and created a tool to allow citizens to find their nearest station and any issues relating to that location. If you remember back to the 2012, the Sandy hurricane wrecked the east coast right before the elections. This resulted in polling stations to be moved last minute. Over 40,000 reports were filed using the platform, many of which were about how and where to vote due to the devastation of Sandy.


Need Help Crowdsourcing Election Reports?

Would you like Ushahidi to support your project? Our Solutions team can:

Get the Ushahidi platform up and running quickly and customize categories, design and plugins

Train your team to use the platform and process reports efficiently

Provide on-the-ground support before and during your election project

Get in touch with our Solutions team for help to make your election monitoring project a success!