Electoral compliance units (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 931)

Electoral compliance units are agencies or mechanisms that investigate and prosecute election fraud and breaches of law



Identify and summarise literature on the international experience in establishing ‘elections compliance units’ to enable prosecution of electoral laws. Provide a summary which highlights pros, cons, risks and issues. Also consider the following questions: Are national level compliance units effective or are locally driven, bottom-up community led approaches to election compliance more effective? Are there any precursors or conditions that must be in place for electoral compliance units to be effective? Of the successful models, what types of structures work, such as number of team members, investigative and prosecuting capacity and partnership arrangements between the electoral body and the police?


The term ‘electoral compliance units’ is not widely understood by electoral scholars or practitioners in the field of electoral assistance. In the absence of a more concrete definition, this report understands ‘electoral compliance units’ to mean agencies or mechanisms that investigate and prosecute election-related fraud and breaches of law. Experts indicate that, rather than through specific, separate bodies, electoral laws are largely monitored and enforced by: legal departments within Election Management Bodies (EMBs), Election Commissions (EC), or the executive branch; specialised courts such as Election Tribunals; or Parliamentary Hearings.

There is very little evaluative literature on mechanisms that could be classified under the ‘election compliance unit’ description. However, the available literature identifies some important aspects to consider when engaging in electoral compliance-related interventions. These are presented in the report.


Hinds, R. Electoral compliance units (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 931). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 9 pp.

Electoral compliance units (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 931)

Published 1 January 2013