What Ukrainian Elections Taught Me About Democracy

The far-flung adventures of a Canadian election observer on a lifelong quest to find hope at the heart of democracy.

Win the votes, buy the votes, steal the votes, invalidate the votes! There is a lot that can go right – and so much that can go wrong – in a Ukrainian election. From the opening of the campaign through to the final decision on the results, it is a rollercoaster ride for the voters, the candidates, the election workers, and the international observers who have travelled from afar to see it all.

In What Ukrainian Elections Taught Me about Democracy long-time election observer Jane Cooper recounts her experience monitoring a municipal election in the mid-sized city of Kirovohrad in 2015. Offering a practical framework for exploring the many things that can go right or wrong during an election, at the core of this story is the inspirational struggle of the poll workers at the bottom of the electoral pyramid to keep the election honest. Cooper describes how election results can be manipulated or falsified and how attempts to do so can be frustrated, providing lessons for citizens of every democratic country. The first work written from the perspective of a Canadian international election observer, the book is an accessible and entertaining story that will appeal to election specialists and the ordinary Canadians who work at the polls on election day, as well as readers who want to learn more about the democratic process in present-day Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has shown us just how endangered democracy is. What Ukrainian Elections Taught Me about Democracy is an insider’s view of election monitoring that sheds light on Canada’s support for international democracy.

Pre-order from Amazon or my favorite independent bookseller.

Available in September from McGill-Queen’s University Press.


Cooper’s book is nothing short of a political thriller, providing a nitty-gritty, real-world assessment of how chaotic, unpredictable, and inspirational democratic elections in countries struggling to overcome authoritarian legacies are.” George O. Liber, University of Alabama at Birmingham.