Introduction to the topic – Sandrine Perrot, Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle, Justin Willis, Translated by Laura Garmeson, “The production of the vote: placing materiality at the heart of the analysis” in Politique africaine, Volume 144, Issue 4, October 2016, pages 5 to 26
Since the return to multiparty politics in the early 1990s, voting has become routine in many African countries. Yet not completely routine. While the principles of universal suffrage and secret ballots have been formally introduced in the vast majority of cases, the vote in its material form is undergoing constant transformation. Nearly all elections have generated a new learning experience for voters, political parties, and election officials, extending some of the debates that have been going on since the late 1940s in some cases: should ballot papers bear names or symbols? Should there be a single ballot marked by the voter, or several? Should there be a single ballot paper and several ballot boxes? Should the ballot boxes be opaque or transparent? And how should voters be identified? Should their names simply be marked on the register after they have voted? Should they have voter cards? Should they be identified by their fingerprints? These changes may not be fundamental, but they represent a continual refinement of the process and betray an awareness that the process is not working quite as well as it should.