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Strengthening Democracy: Global Election Leaders Provide Insights to Preventing Election-Related Violence

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Irene Weygandt

Director of Communication & Marketing, Josef Korbel School

Article  • News  • Analysis  •
Honduras election


The Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver will welcome two of the world’s leading practitioners in elections for a series of events and conversations with students and faculty on election security.

Therese Pearce Laanela, head of electoral processes and Sead Alihodzic, senior program manager at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) were hosted by the Korbel School’s Institute for Comparative and Regional Studies (ICRS) and Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. Recent turbulent elections in the U.S. and around the globe in both established and burgeoning democracies illustrate the distressing connections between conflict dynamics and polarizing politics. An electoral process could either exacerbate or address these challenges through peaceful resolutions and approaches to the underlying social divisions.

Laanela specializes in elections and electoral assistance, electoral systems and political financing, and Alihodzic’s expertise includes conflict prevention, risk management, early warning and response, and geospatial data analysis presentation.  Together, these leading experts will provide global insights on lessons learned, best practices, and international standards for elections worldwide in addition to offering practical knowledge on how to monitor and prevent election-related violence. Their visit to the Korbel School is funded in part by a Carnegie Corporation grant for responsible policy engagement to the Sié Center for International Security and Diplomacy.

The two experts will be featured in a free, virtual public event, “Electing for Peace? Democracy and Peace Building in the 21stCentury” on Wednesday, March 9 at 12:15 p.m. The event will explore the complex dynamics of elections and peace.

“Therese and Sead’s visit to Denver is incredibly timely,” says Tim Sisk, a professor of comparative and international politics and director of ICRS at the Korbel School. “Legislation brought forth recently in the Colorado state legislature, including a bill that offers protections for elections officials and new election security rules point to how these challenges influence our democracies at both local and global levels.”

“Democracy is under threat, and we see that come to bear in our electoral processes,” says Frederick “Fritz” Mayer, dean of the Korbel School. “From vote manipulation and voter suppression to intimidation tactics and blatant threats against elections officials, those of us who are committed to protecting and promoting democratic ideals must come together to discuss methods to combat this type of democratic erosion. With the help of the Carnegie Corporation and as an extension of our broader democracy initiatives like the Denver Democracy Summit, the Korbel School is pleased to be able to bring these leading global practitioners in elections to DU and Colorado.”

In addition to the public appearance, students at the Korbel School had the unique opportunity to engage with Laanela and Alihodzic, providing an important hands-on learning experience to the next generation of policy and international affairs professionals on the latest perspectives and findings from scholarly research.