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Workshop Report: Frameworks for Engaging Youth in Election Observation.

(July 26, 2023)


The European Platform for Democratic Elections hosted a workshop to discuss strategies to engage youth in election observation. The workshop took place on 19 July 2023 on Zoom.

Election Expert Highlights Importance of Citizen Observation in the EU

Election expert Sławomir Szyszka discussed the importance of citizen election observation across the EU, highlighting both the limits and the opportunities for such engagement. He presented the recent EPDE publication Sławomir emphasized the role of civil society in advocating for change in this regard, to allow citizens to monitor all aspects of elections. He also pointed out the pressures on the political system and the need for continuous monitoring and advocacy, including such aspects as disinformation or campaigning in the online sphere.

He concluded that there are many civil society initiatives across the EU that actively monitor different aspects of political life which contribute to citizen control over elections, but more could be done on the EU level and national MS level to support civil society groups and citizen observation in a more systematic way.

Experts Discuss Importance of Citizen Election Observation and Engagement of Young People

In the second part of the workshop, the panelists discussed the challenges of engaging young people in election observation. Noemi Arcidiacono, President of the Agora Election Observation, shared her experience in organizing election observation missions in Europe to reengage young people in the democratic process. Agora’s focus is on practical involvement, including observing the polling stations, counting votes, and talking to stakeholders to create a sense of community and network.

Amanda Valentin, Chairperson of Vos, a Swedish election observation organization highlighted their success in improving the quality of elections and engaging citizens. She provided an instance where the European Commission posed a query to the Swedish government, referencing their reports, regarding the confidentiality of the voting process in Sweden. In order to generate more interest in election observation, the focus was on reaching out to new groups, particularly marginalized individuals. It was suggested that simple and practical activities be implemented to involve young people. Offering diplomas and international exchange opportunities further enhance participation. Amanda also proposed beginning with the practical part, the more theoretical part could demotivate new participants.

Sylwester Oracz, representing Fundacja Odpowiedzialna Polityka, a youth-led organization, discussed their approach to election observation in Poland. They aim to build trust in the electoral system and provide unbiased assessments to identify and address election issues. However, domestic observation was not popular among young people, that’s why they decided to focus on sharing their expertise and offering consultancy services to other organizations. This allows further organizations to observe elections and learn about the Polish political system while maintaining impartiality. The key to this approach is to engage people in this learning process about democracy while avoiding affiliations with political parties.

Practical Advice for Engaging Young People in Election Observation

The other practical advice for engaging young people included involving foreign guests in international exchange as an incentive for young people, who may be interested to attend activities that involve meeting new people. Secondly providing them with certificates could be another way to highlight the engagement of participants and acknowledge their efforts. Additionally, beginning with uncomplicated observation missions can be also a motivating factor.

Training before observation aims to build trust in the electoral system and provide impartial assessments for future reforms. One of the challenges facing election observation is engaging young people who may not be interested in the process and addressing the political division and skepticism towards politics that many of them feel. To overcome these obstacles, it has been recommended to improve the language and branding of election observation, include young people in election administration, and instill a sense of ownership and responsibility for the electoral process.

It has been highlighted that there are various citizen election observation activities that can be carried out, in addition to just observing on Election Day. These activities aid in enhancing citizen oversight over the electoral process. Observing helps inculcate positive practices like fact-checking, maintaining accuracy, and utilizing dependable sources. During the discussion, the panelists unanimously agreed that involving young people in election observation has several advantages. They possess exceptional skills in managing digital tools and social media, which can significantly enhance the observation process and help counter disinformation.

Starting Engagement at a Young Age and Advocacy Initiatives for Civic Education Reforms

In the final part of the workshop, all attendees had the opportunity to participate in a group session where they shared personal experiences and asked questions. It was noted that starting engagement at a young age can lead to better development of democratic competencies over time. Data suggest that individuals who vote in their first three elections are more likely to continue voting throughout their lives. Additionally, observation activities should be considered within the broader context of political engagement and civic education, both in formal and non-formal settings.

It is important to educate young people about the wider scope of election observation, as well as the multiple roles that different NGOs have in this area. These roles may include fighting against fake news and encouraging political engagement among youth. One of the recommendations is to reduce the voting age to 16, which would enable young people to participate in the democratic processes they are taught about in school. To achieve this objective, it is recommended to involve them early on and encourage them to observe elections.

Although the European Union may lack the authority to require educational reforms at the national level, it can promote communication and investment in civic education among Member States. Advocacy initiatives should also be carried out at the local, regional, and national levels to bring about the necessary changes.

Organizations that monitor elections should cooperate with other civil society groups from both formal and informal education sectors to push for reforms. Professionals and experts can collaborate in applying the concepts related to these subjects. These partnerships are especially important in countries with a tense political atmosphere, where laws are being misused to undermine democracy, and constructive legal reforms are not possible in the current situation.

The workshop was organised by the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) under the European voters – together for electoral integrity project and looked into some of the project findings published recently in the Active Citizenship for Vibrant Democracy report.

For further information, please consult the programme. For questions about the workshop, please contact EPDE at



17:00 Welcome and introductions

17:10 The legal frameworks for youth engagement in citizen election observation

  • Sławomir Szyszka, Election analyst, researcher, and observer for the EU, EPDE, FSM, IRI, OSCE, International IDEA and Batory Foundation, Co-author of the EPDE study Active Citizens for a Vibrant Democracy

17:30 Panel discussion on organising youth engagement in citizen election observation

  • Noemi Arcidiacono, President, AGORA Election Observation
  • Sylwester Oracz, Political Finance and Campaigns Expert, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Political Accountability Foundation (Poland)
  • Amanda Valentin, Co-founder, VOS Valobservation i Sverige (Sweden)

Moderated by Kira Mössinger, Program Manager, EPDE

18:15 Breakout group session

18:45 Reporting back

19:00 Closing of the workshop


This workshop is part of the project “European voters – together for electoral integrity” and funded by the European Union as part of the Europe for Citizens (EfC) programme.

Project partners:

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