Last Sunday, October 21st, together with Polish Political Accountability Foundation and Code for Romania we have observed local government elections in Poland under the “Observers in action” project.

What we did is that we recruited 89 observers, split them into 40 teams and asked to take 24 hours out of their lives to observe elections in Mazowsze region [35,558 km^2]. They have watched opening of the polling stations, visited others during the election day and stayed with electoral commissions who counted the votes overnight from 9 pm to, in some cases, even 5 pm the next day. Observers visited 338 unique polling stations and sent 424 reports to the observation office. The coordination team has been crunching the data during the election day, wrapping last results on Monday, which has allowed to issue a report and do a press conference on Tuesday!

Below you can see how observers have been moving around the region starting from Warsaw and visiting new polling stations.

 

Observers moving around the region

What we got so far is 89 people happy they have contributed to their civic duties and visited remote villages of Mazowsze, wide media coverage and a report summarizing the observation and suggesting recommendations to the National Election Committee. Summary TLDR is that we haven’t observed any frauds, but a lot of chaos resulting from new rules and not sufficient training of members of elections commissions. The impact that we are looking forward to see is that recommendations will be implemented by the relevant government body.

In the meantime it’s worth to reflect on the successful implementation of the project. From many factors that has contributed to it, I’d like to mention two, which we keep stressing in civic tech work: just the right amount of tech + right partnerships. [Read about more opportunities in a recent Code for All report]

Right amount of tech

“The app” allowed observers to send data in real-time to observation center where we kept analyzing it during 24 hours sprint on Sunday. On Monday Karol’s team wrapped it up, included last-minute data and packaged it in a report that was published on a press conference on Tuesday. If we were to receive paper forms and then transcribe the data it’s most likely the press conference would happen on Friday if not next Monday, when the election buzz would have already go away. And that was only a pilot covering one of 16 Polish regions.

 

Observer’s badge and the app

Right partnerships

We had an amazing team of organizations complementing each other. Code for Romania provided the app and support, we in ePanstwo were busy adapting it and supporting data gathering on the election day and most importantly Political Accountability Foundation has provided the 90% civic part of every civic-tech project: expertise, from recruiting and training observers, wrangling data and coming up with expert recommendations, to doing reach out via media and advocacy for change. As ePanstwo alone we could not have done it having no election observation expertise. Political Accountability Foundation acting alone would have been hampered by data processing issues.
Together we are stronger.

Coordination team in the observation center