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Databite No. 83: Michelle Brown

open election data


June 23, 2016 - 12:00 pm

Data & Society
36 West 20th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10011

Databites are Data & Society's weekly lunch conversations focused on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to our community.

RSVP required. To request an invitation, please email events at data society dot net.

Michelle Brown presents: Open Election Data: Foundations, Challenges, and Successes:

Michelle Brown is a senior advisor for the Elections and Political Processes team at the National Democratic Institute. She is also the Director of NDI’s Open Election Data Initiative, which advocates for electoral data to be made open, and provides tools and resources to help citizen organizations use data to hold election management bodies accountable.

Michelle will speak about emerging developments around open data and elections and give us an overview of the challenges and some successes she has faced in her work inside this young and emergent field. She will outline the larger context for her work, including the Open Government Partnership and the Open Data Movement, and discuss the nitty-gritty around election monitoring, election integrity, and the core principles of transparency, inclusion, and accountability that drive her quantitative work in this space. She will also highlight issues that arise when ‘generic’ open data principles are applied to the domain of electoral integrity and touch on a few of the political dynamics surrounding elections and data.

Michelle Brown is practitioner in the field of democracy assistance with more than a decade of experience in assessing and verifying elections. To date, she has worked with 15 different civil society organizations and helped them to systematically observe more than 25 elections in places such as Burma, Ukraine, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.

She is an experienced expert in teaching organizations to use quantitative methods as they evaluate their elections. This includes using advanced methodologies known as a Voter List Verification (VRV) for evaluating the quality of the voter list, and a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for assessing the quality of election day as well as verifying (or calling into question) the results.

Ms. Brown is also a pioneer in the emerging field of election forensics. In 2011, she performed preliminary analysis on the results of Haiti’s 2010 Presidential Election. She then traveled to Port-au-Prince and as part of a verification team that assessed the vote tabulation process. After reviewing the results forms, Ms. Brown and her colleagues quantified the amount of fraud conducted on behalf of the second place candidate. As a consequence, the candidate dropped out of the runoff, making room for the third place candidate who ultimately became Haiti’s President. In 2012, Ms. Brown led a team of international election experts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where the team assessed the feasibility of reviewing the tabulation processes from the November 2011 elections.

Currently, Ms. Brown works to build the capacity of activists to use the VRV and PVT methodologies to assess their elections. She also directs the Open Election Data Initiative, which promotes accountability through the use of open election data.