Lessons From Canada: Nonpartisanship Works

International Resource
December 7, 2021
Election Reformers Network

The United States is a global outlier in how it selects its election officials. In the vast majority of states, Secretaries of State and other Chief Election Officers are elected or appointed with specific party affiliation—a practice that is totally out-of-step with peer democracies.  

In Nonpartisanship Works: How Lessons from Canada Can Re-establish Trust in U.S. Election Administration, ERN looks north to Canadian provinces, where elections are similarly conducted at the provincial level and led by an individual. However, we find that Canadian election law provides for far more protection against political manipulation of election when compared to the 40 U.S. states with a singular elected or appointed Chief Election Officer.

In this study,we explain how delegating authority to independent professionals in Canada overcame widespread fraud, put in place a system that won the trust of voters, and managed COVID with little of the partisan rancor experienced here. The result is an electoral process that is far more broadly trusted by the public, and administrative decisions that are more accepted by political actors.  

Adapting these principles to the US context, we take aim at two of the biggest problems facing U.S. democracy: the threat of partisan manipulation of elections, and the self-serving skepticism of political leaders who oppose nonpartisan reform. We suggest a series of practical steps that can incrementally build nonpartisan control of US elections, and protect against partisan manipulation.