The holding of elections has become universal but only about half of all elections have been free and fair. Electoral malpractice not only distorts the quality of representation but has implications for political, social and economic outcomes. Existing datasets either provide broad information on election quality for large panels or they provide very detailed information on electoral processes and events for a small number of elections. Our data collection effort closes this gap. We provide an assessment of elections that is closely tied to the commonly used term ‘free and fair’ and base this proxy on ten variables for a global panel. Our preliminary results suggest that there are a number of elections that are unfree but fair. Most observer organisations concentrate on the election as an event, i.e. whether the election was fair. We therefore recommend that international organisations should put more emphasis on monitoring the run up to the elections, i.e. whether the elections were free.