"Citizen Election Observers in Theory and Practice"


Tuesday March 21, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
The Department of Political Studies, the Electoral Integrity Project, the Institute for Intergovernmental Relations, and the School of Policy Studies present:

“Citizen Election Observers in Theory and Practice”

with Martyna Hoffman and Rebecca Wagner of the Electoral Integrity Project

Tuesday, March 21st, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Robert Sutherland Hall, Room 202

*Light lunch provided


International election observation has become one of the key instruments of international democracy promotion. Less well known but equally widespread, however, are citizen observers. Yet the Copenhagen Document of 1990 and the Venice Commission of 2002 have affirmed that “the participating States consider that the presence of observers, both foreign and domestic, can enhance the electoral process in States where elections are held.” Against the backdrop of global democratic backsliding, this seminar will provide a historical overview of the origins of international and domestic election observation, as well as their fundamental norms and principles. Two empirical case studies will discuss recent developments and challenges in citizen election observation and its role in promoting citizen trust in elections. First, a case study will examine how citizen observers face restrictions and threats during elections, how they respond, and the role of trust in their ability to respond. Second, the case of Poland will be used to discuss the role that citizen observers can play in building trust in elections, and how their actions might be considered to have the opposite effect.


Rebecca Wagner is a doctoral researcher at the Peace Research Institute (PRIF) in Frankfurt where she conducts research on resistance and resilience, international democracy support, civil society and elections. Before joining PRIF, Rebecca gained more than seven years’ experience of international human rights and democracy support work, including participating in ODIHR /OSCE Election Observation Missions and serving as a civic observer. Her most recent election observation mission took her to the USA Midterm Elections in 2022. Rebecca Wagner is member of the research network External Democracy Promotion (EDP). She has degrees from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and the University of Konstanz, Germany.

Martyna Hoffman is a sociologist and PhD student at Nicolaus Copernicus University. Her research focuses on voting accessibility. She runs the research project "On the edge of democracy? Active suffrage practices of people in a situation of homelessness", funded by the Polish National Science Center. She collaborates with Political Accountability Foundation (Fundacja Odpowiedzialna Polityka) - a Polish NGO specialising in election observation. She completed her MA and BA in Sociology at Nicolaus Copernicus University.