Elections and COVID-19

International IDEA Technical Paper 1/2020
This publication is only available in electronic format
26 March 2020

The global spread of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus disease) has profoundly impacted on the delivery of public services and routine events that are integral to inclusive societies. Electoral processes are one such event.

The opportunity for a society to confirm officials in elected office or remove them, within a constitutionally defined timeframe, is a pillar of democratic values and standards. The process of doing this is a communal one, and communal events intrinsically bring people together—a process that is contrary to the informed advice for limiting the transmission of a virus, such as the one that causes COVID-19.

Decisions must be made to ensure democratic institutions function as they ordinarily would do, during extraordinary times, such as the outbreak of a global health pandemic. This Technical Paper offers an initial overview of key points for electoral administrators, governments and civil society organizations on administering elections amid the continued spread of COVID-19.


1. Introduction

2. Key considerations for planning an election

3. Will postponing or continuing to hold an election affect its legitimacy?

4. Guidelines for operating polling stations during the COVID-19 pandemic

5. Deciding to postpone or continue with holding an election

6. Recommendations