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Manchester Apr 2014

Political Studies Association Panels on Electoral Integrity  

When: 14-16 April 2014 

Where:  UK Political Studies Association Conference, The Midland Hotel, Manchester, UK

Organizer: Dr Alistair Clark (University of Newcastle; 

Co-sponsors:  The Electoral Integrity Project

Aims:  To expand our understanding of issues of electoral integrity in the UK, Europe and beyond.

Synopsis:  Barely a month goes past when the outcome of some electoral process is challenged somewhere in the world. In the past year, questions have been raised about electoral fraud in, for example, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Malaysia. Questions of integrity have also been raised in advanced democracies, most notably the USA but also in Britain and elsewhere. Electoral integrity is therefore a crucial issue in both international and domestic politics. Doubts over the integrity of the electoral process can lead variously to doubts over the legitimacy of elections, and at worst to widespread violence. These issues are being increasingly addressed by a range of scholars.

To continue and develop these debates,  papers on electoral integrity were presented in panels at the 2014 UK Political Studies Association Conference.  The event took place under the larger umbrella of the Political Studies Association of the UK annual meeting:

Panels and schedule:  

To download a PDF copy of more details about the panel program:Papers and panels

EPOP – Electoral Integrity Panels for PSA 2014, Manchester

EPOP - Electoral Integrity 1

Chair: Olli Hellmann

Paper 1

Funding Capacity in Electoral Democracy: The Case of British Elections

Dr. Alistair Clark

Newcastle University


Little is known about how much it costs to run elections and the impact of such spending upon the capacity of electoral administrators to deliver high quality elections. While a 2005 UNDP/IFES report did much to categorise and estimate election costs, this research failed to examine in detail how these various costs were funded and capacity built in election administration. Others have noted that even within the same state, election costs are seldom recorded consistently, thereby limiting the potential for research and theory building in this area. This paper utilises rare but extensive funding data from the UK Electoral Commission to assess the costs of the biggest test for electoral administrators, that of a national parliamentary general election, in this case to Westminster in 2010. It examines the funding of core electoral administrative functions and the component parts of spending on registration activities before detailing the costs of holding elections on polling day. The findings enable Britain to be compared with the little known about comparative election funding, and conclude with theoretical reflection on how such election funding helps build capacity among electoral administrators in advanced democracies.


Paper 2 

The public's view of fraud and what to do about it 

Phil Thompson, Joe Hewton, Gemma Rosenblatt

Electoral Commission

This paper will consider the fairly high levels of reported concern about electoral fraud amongst the UK public in various Electoral Commission surveys despite the traditionally low levels of reported fraud. It will present new findings from qualitative research with members of the public across the UK, which show that concerns expressed in surveys are not as durable when considered further and in depth. The paper will look at what the public understand by the term 'electoral fraud' and how, often, the interpretation they may attach to it differs significantly from those held by researchers and public policy makers. It also considers what electoral administration changes could increase confidence amongst members of the public, as well as the limitations of policy changes in this area and the need to balance security and accessibility. 

Paper 3

Assessing the independence of electoral management boards: A policy network approach

Toby S. James

University of East Anglia


Electoral Management Boards play a key role in the delivery of elections. Independent EMBs are usually prescribed by democratic theorists and international organisations on the basis that they can prevent incumbent governments manipulating electoral laws to maximise their chances of achieving successful statecraft.  However, methodologies for assessing the independence of EMBs remain underdeveloped.  A de jure approach is usually adopting which involves sorting EMBS into those which are run by government, fully independent on the basis of constitutional law (Lopez-Pinter, 2000; Wall et al., 2006).  The results of this approach has been criticised but no alternative framework has been developed.  This paper considers a de facto method of identifying the independence of EMBs through the use of the Anglo policy networks literature. The paper has three parts.  Part I considers the existing literature on electoral management: why EMBs matter and how EMBs have been categorised to date.  Part II introduces the policy network literature and the problems involved in applying this to electoral governance.  Part III provisionally applies the framework to the UK to ask what kind of network is found here using primary interview evidence.  An agenda for future research is then identified.

Paper 4

Free Media, Free Elections?

Sarah Birch,

University of Glasgow


Freedom of information and the right to take part in the election of one’s leaders are both key components of modern repertoires of human rights. This paper sets out to explore the relationship between these two variables. Previous empirical studies have noted an empirical association between media freedom and electoral integrity, but there has been little effort to examine the causal mechanisms behind this relationship in detail. Drawing on theoretical literature on the role of information in decision-making, this paper will develop and test a new account of the relationship between a free press and free elections.  Access to the information provided by an open press is hypothesised both to help and to hinder authoritarian leaders, who can be expected to engage in selective and targeted repression of media outlets during and prior to election campaigns. The extent to which they are successful at disrupting information flows can be expected to be shaped by a variety of factors, including levels of education, access to technology  and civil society development. The empirical analysis will employ a nested mixed methods design, drawing on a bespoke cross-national dataset, combined with qualitative data on selected cases. These data sources will be analysed alongside datasets of incidents of abuse from the cases in question.


EPOP Electoral Integrity 2

Chair: Alistair Clark

Paper 1

Exploring Electoral Integrity in an Established Democracy: Participant Observations of Counting Procedures at the 2013 German Bundestag Elections

Achim Goerres, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany


This paper starts from the findings of earlier work (Breunig and Goerres 2011 in Electoral Studies), in which we showed that there were systematic irregularities in the counting processes of past Bundestag elections. One of the concluding hypotheses was that the social and political composition of the group of individuals counting together influences the amount of mistakes being made. More concretely according to the logic of homophily, the more socially and politically alike individuals are, the more they know each other personally, the more they trust each other and the less controlling they are of one another. The paper presents evidence from a series of systematic participant observations from the 2013 Bundestag elections, demonstrating that the social act of counting varies greatly across different contextual and individual settings. This variance then leads to the questions about whether it matters. It suggests a research design for a major field experiment to test a series of derived hypotheses in the next election.

Paper 2

Critiquing the Critics: Russia and Eastern Europe Answer Back 

Stephen White

University of Glasgow

The critique of Russian and East European elections that is routinely offered by OSCE observers has become a familiar feature of electoral practice in the region. Less well known is the defence of those elections that has been offered by monitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States and other bodies on the basis of their own international conventions on election propriety, and the critique of Western practices that Russian and Belarusian election authorities have begun to develop on the basis of their own observation of recent Western elections, such as the US presidential election of 2012. What are those criticisms? How valid are they? And what does this developing polemic tell us about the feasibility of an attempt to develop measures of electoral integrity that are genuinely crossnational?

Paper 3

The Quality of Kenya’s March 2013 Elections and Its Impact

Dr. Gary Bland, 

RTI International

The March 2013 national elections in Kenya concluded peacefully.  After a week of review by the High Court, which controversially ruled them valid, the results have been widely accepted.  The electoral process raised grave concerns, however.  The ethnic violence surrounding the 2007 presidential elections shocked Kenya into a wide-ranging reform of the political system, and the March elections were its first critical test. This paper takes stock of the quality of the elections through an empirical study.  The paper is founded on a detailed evaluation of the vote through the application of the Election Administration Systems Index (EASI).  Utilizing EASI’s results, I examine the elections within the broader political context, assess major successes and failures, and consider the impact of the electoral process on democratic stability.  As described in the spring issue of Democratization, EASI is a practical, transparent, and sustainable tool for measuring the quality of elections in the developing world.  EASI is based on a multi-faceted, 54-question survey of multiple election experts.  The analytical framework is comprised of three electoral dimensions and three temporal dimensions. Though EASI serves as the foundation for the paper, my findings will be supplemented by the reports of election monitors, media reports, interviews, and additional research.  The analysis will provide a nuanced examination across each dimension.  The conclusion will discuss the broader impact of the quality of the elections on the Kenyan polity.

Paper 4

Getting away with foul play? The importance of formal and informal oversight institutions for electoral integrity

Sarah Birch, University of Glasgow (

Carolien van Ham, University of Twente (

Electoral integrity is increasingly being recognised as an important component of democracy, yet scholars still have limited understanding of the circumstances under which elections are most likely to be free, fair and genuine. This paper posits that effective oversight institutions are both necessary and sufficient in scrutinising the electoral process and holding those with an interest n the electoral outcome to account. These oversight institutions are of three main types: the formal institutions of electoral management bodies and the judiciary as well as the informal institution of the media. We further argue that deficiencies in electoral management can be largely compensated for via one or both of the other two institutional checks: an active and independent judiciary and/or an active and independent media. Flawed elections are most likely to take place when all three institutional checks fail in key ways. These hypotheses will be tested on a cross-national time-series dataset of national-level elections held in over 90 third and fourth wave regimes between 1990 and 2010.


Electoral Integrity Panel 3

Chair: Toby James

Paper 1

Reforming campaign finance in new democracies

Olli Hellmann,

Sussex University,

New democracies of the "third wave" of democratisation are generally characterised by much higher levels of political corruption than established democracies. Common practices of political party funding include "selling" policy to business, looting public resources, and sponsoring by wealthy oligarchs. This paper argues that the differences in political corruption between new and established democracies can be explained by differences in the timing and sequencing of democratic transitions. Only new democracies that have followed a similar transitional pathway to established democracies have introduced more transparent campaign finance systems; in contrast, in the majority of new democracies, reform progress has been poor. The paper develops this argument through a small-N comparison of new democracies in Latin America and East Asia.

Paper 2

UN Electoral Assistance: Enhancing Democratization or Legitimizing Authoritarian Rule?

Anna Lührmann,

Humboldt, Berlin

International actors such as the United Nations provide substantial technical and financial support to elections. This electoral assistance aims at improving the credibility and quality of elections, which in turn are thought to enhance democratization. However, recent literature on authoritarian elections (Schedler 2006; Levitsky/Way 2010) casts doubt on this simple causal link, because authoritarian incumbents tend to manipulate elections. Hence, authoritarian elections supported by international actors might unintentionally stabilize authoritarian rule through enhancing regimes’ legitimacy. This suggests that UN electoral assistance might not contribute to democratization but rather to the opposite. In order to shed light on this suspicion, this paper applies a mixed-method strategy, which includes the establishment of an original dataset on UN electoral assistance missions (2007-2013) and, based on field research, two case studies (Sudan 2010 and Libya 2012). It finds that, UN electoral assistance tends to enhance the quality of elections, which is likely to boost regime legitimacy. Hence, in regular authoritarian elections, UN electoral assistance may have the side effect of contributing to authoritarian regimes’ stability. However, main UN electoral assistance projects take place in transitional contexts, where initial legitimacy for a new regime may lay the ground for further democratization.

Paper 3

International electoral observation and electoral integrity: Towards a practical model to evaluate impact

Betilde Munoz-Pogossian, Ph.D., Director a.i., Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, Secretariat for Political Affairs, Organization of American States


Massimo Tomassoli, Ph.D., Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the United Nations, External Relations and Governance Support, International IDEA


Academics and practitioners alike agree that elections offer a key opportunity to strengthen democratic institutions, which in turn contribute to the improvement of the quality of democracy. Given the unquestionable relevance of democratic elections, international intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations such as the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, the European Union or the Organization of American States (OAS) have been providing countries holding elections with international election observation as an instrument to consolidate democratic processes. Author such as Hyde (2008, 2011) and Kelley (2012), among others, have recently made important progress in assessing the success of election observation as well as its limits. However, their approach fails to offer a practical tool for practitioners to document the impact that electoral observation missions have on the integrity of elections. Should election observation missions be evaluated as projects? Or should there be evaluated in terms of the impact they have in averting violence or, minimally, post-electoral crises? How can we measure the impact they have on electoral legitimacy? Building on the analysis of two case studies (Haiti-2010 and Honduras-2013), the paper assesses the relationship between the integrity of elections and international electoral observation, specifically addressing the issue of impact throughout the electoral cycle.

Paper 4

Frauds and Litigations in Electoral Competition: the Case of French Local Elections before the Courts (1988-2008)

Dr. Clement Desrumaux CERAPS/University of Lille,

Thomas Leonard CERAPS/University of Lille,

Are advanced democracies free from electoral fraud? Fraud has not to be considered as pathology of democracies, but has to be understood in the context of electoral competition. A comprehensive analysis of fraud is almost impossible to conduct; indeed fraud is difficult to track down and is not a simple fact but as well a question of labelling. In the paper, by considering the political territories, we display different degrees of competition explaining the use and the disuse of the court in the electoral struggle. Indeed, electoral administration is not simply a judge of irregularities but an actor enrolled in political struggle. Thus, we explain the decision criteria taken into account by judges to show that using the law is less explained by irregularities and more by the context of political configurations. Depending on the territory, the irregularity can be almost a necessity or an unrisky option. In most cases, irregularities seem the result of an arbitration taking into account the resources of the opponent and the expected difference of votes. The paper is based, first, on an analysis of decisions in municipal and cantonal electoral litigations in France, and, second, on political parties archives and press review. The ambition of the paper is to question the “electoral integrity”, less by looking at the honesty of politicians than by analysing the particular political and social conditions of its possibility.

Logistical details: 

More details about PSA registration, Manchester accommodation, travel and the main conference program can be found at