Making democracy legible? Voter registration and the permanent electronic electoral list in Benin

2016-10-06T13:25:58Z (GMT) by Giulia Piccolino
International Institute of Social Studies.A core component of the infrastructural power of the modern state is the capacity to make its population 'legible', through the development of accurate registration and identification mechanisms. In discussing the relationship between democratization and state building, little attention has been paid to the electoral process as a technical process. Yet, the introduction of competitive elections presupposes the registration of voters and thus requires the development of the 'legibility' capacities of states. This is particularly evident in sub-Saharan Africa, where democratizing states have been confronted with the weakness of their existing records and forced to develop new mechanisms for registering voters in a reliable manner. This article looks at the experience of the Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisée (the Permanent Electronic Electoral List) in Benin and discusses the potentialities and limits of voter registration as a state-building tool.