Do I get paid?
As our organisation’s name suggests, at Democracy Volunteers, observers are volunteers who are able to work for us on polling days for no payment. We are a small organisation who rely on our dedicated, brilliant volunteers to help us conduct observations.
In most circumstances we are able to cover some basic costs for those volunteers who are unable to participate without some support. This would include some basic travel costs for petrol or train tickets etc. We also offer small daily allowances for food etc.
How do I get involved with an election observation?
In order to get involved with our organisation and observe an election, you will first need to register your interest by email.
You can either visit our contact page or see our join us page for our 5 step way to get involved!
Advertisements for observers can also be found on some university and community volunteering pages, as well as regular updates on our website.
After this you will be contacted, and need to complete some documents with your basic information and sign our code of conduct. You will then be contacted about any upcoming electoral events you can observe.
Do I need any formal qualifications or training to observe?
In order to participate in an election observation deployment you do not need any formal qualifications. However, you will be required to have received our Democracy Volunteers training session, which will be delivered to you in the weeks preceding the electoral event you are observing or will be conducted online. If you wish to complete these, they can be accessed through the training section on this website.
In addition to this training, you will also be required to have a pre-deployment briefing. This will usually be done in the week before the election and lasts around an hour. It is important you attend this meeting as you will be informed of your area of observation, specific details on the election and what data is being collected and who you will be observing with.
I do not know much about elections or politics! Can I still observe?
Yes you can! You will not need any prior knowledge on elections, their administration or politics in order to apply to observe with our organisation. All of the information you will need to conduct a successful observation will be taught through our training courses and pre-deployment briefings.
Are there any age restrictions?
There are no restrictions on who can observe based on your age or any other factors apart from your interactions with political parties (see below). At Democracy Volunteers we welcome observers from all walks and stages of life and believe the diversity of our observers is one of our strengths.
Can I observe if I’m a member of a political party?
In order to observe an election with Democracy Volunteers you cannot be a member of a UK political party. This is because being an election observer is an apolitical position, as our data needs to be free of any conscious or subconscious bias towards any political party or campaign in any referenda. Anyone holding elected office, such as a councillor or Member of Parliament, for example, would not be able to observe with Democracy Volunteers in the UK, even if they are not a member of a political party.
If you are a member of a political party, you are still able to observe elections in other countries, and you should make this clear when registering your interest.
I am not free to observe at the next election, can I still get involved?
If you are not available to observe the next electoral event, you can still get involved. Elections across the UK and the rest of the world occur surprisingly regularly. You can keep updated on any future deployments you may be interested in by registering your interest and we will add you to our mailing list, or by regularly checking our vacancies page on this website.
Why should I become an observer?
Election observation allows citizens to help improve the quality of democratic elections, by advising those who legislate for, administer and oversee elections, to enhance them for the benefit of voters. Through constructive interaction with electoral authorities the data you collect will provide evidence, which can be used to improve our institutions and practices.
In addition to this, observing is great fun and a brilliant way to meet other individuals with similar interests to your own. You will also gain experience collecting data in a real world setting and have been involved in an extremely useful mission.
Do I have to make any long-term commitments to start observing?
One of the main issues which puts many people off engaging with volunteering work is the prospect of having to commit to too much work.
When you request to observe on one of our missions, we do ask that you are able to commit to the whole of polling day, and not to apply if you believe there is a reasonable prospect you will not be available on polling day. Of course if unforeseeable circumstances occur, observation teams can be changed at short notice, but we try to avoid this at all costs.
Furthermore, after applying to be an observer with us you are able to pick and choose which electoral events you wish to observe and are not committed to any future observations.
Will I need to buy any equipment to observe?
At Democracy Volunteers, we want to make election observation an activity which anyone from the community can take part in, in order to strengthen our democracy. There are a few items which aid in our observations – such as having a mobile phone which can connect to the internet to submit data from polling stations, or a portable charger to keep the battery charged on your phone. These are essential for our operations on polling day. However, if you do not have these you can inform the core team of this, and they will pair you up with an observer who does. This will not impact your ability to participate in an observation.
You will also be provided with the majority of the equipment you will need by our core team. This will include items such as an observer handbook which are supplied free of any charge.
Can I donate to help support the work of Democracy Volunteers?
The work we do at Democracy Volunteers is completely funded by individual donations we receive from our observers and grant awarding bodies. If you wish to help us strengthen democratic institutions and electoral administration in the UK and abroad, we have a membership tier system. If you support us by a certain amount each month, you will receive some added benefits such as:
£100 p/m – Gold Membership – Cost price international observations, free access to all online Democracy Volunteers courses, advance notice of Democracy Volunteers events, seminars and conferences.
£50 p/m – Silver membership – 10% off international observations, 50% off all online Democracy Volunteers courses, advance notice of Democracy Volunteers events, seminars and conferences.
£25 p/m – Bronze membership – 5% off international observations, 25% off all online Democracy Volunteers courses, advance notice of Democracy Volunteers events, seminars and conferences.
£10 p/m – Student membership – 5% off international observations, 25% off all online Democracy Volunteers courses, advance notice of Democracy Volunteers events, seminars and conferences. (Proof of student status required at time of application)
If you are able to do so, this helps our organisation a lot and we are very grateful to our observers who support our work in this way.