Manipulating the Vote or the Voter?: The Influence of Electoral Rules on the Tactics of Fraud
(Co-authored with Erik Herron)

Keywords: Election Fraud, Proportional System, Plurality System, Crowdsourcing, List Experiments, and Fraud Forensics.

Institutional rules not only influence the legitimate activities political actors pursue to win elections, but they also seem to influence illicit actions. We present a theory that focuses on how institutional rules relate to on-the-ground tactics of fraud. We test observable implications using a list experiment survey, crowdsourcing data, and fraud forensics from the 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine. We present evidence of vote manipulation, in the form of results falsification in the PR tier, and evidence of voter manipulation, in the form of vote buying in the SMD tier. We further document a preference of "boss" candidates to contest SMD elections, consistent with their incentives and capabilities to manipulate elections in plurality systems, as well as more vote buying in districts where the concentration of "boss" candidates is higher.

(The draft paper can be downloaded here)

Political Parties and Election Fraud

: Principal-Agent Theory, Election Fraud, Electoral Administration, Experiments.

Autocrats face a dilemma. Continue with fraudulent electoral practices and risk revolt, or reduce fraud and risk losing elections. One solution is to structure electoral governance such that it allows for independence and professionalism at the center, lending credibility to the electoral process, and partisan local-level administration, enabling fraud at the micro level. Partisan poll workers can help deliver the vote by the use of ‘smart fraud’ – fraud that minimizes the risk of being caught and is used only when needed. In Armenia, the ruling party’s vote share, as a proportion of all registered voters, increases with 8.2 percent in polling stations where the chairperson was randomly assigned to the ruling party. Fraud forensics suggests that one of the mechanisms behind this was falsification of the results protocol during the count. I conjecture that fraud is only used in high-stakes elections, and that election observers are unable to detect it.

(The draft paper can be downloaded here)

Making Voters Count: Evidence from Field Experiments about the Efficacy of Domestic Election Observation

Keywords: Election Fraud, Field Experiment, Election Observation, Fraud Forensics, Digit-Based Tests, Vote-Count Fraud, Vote Buying, Sample-Based Observation (SBO), and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT).

Elections are important because they hold the promise of empowering voters to hold leaders accountable. The sad reality, however, is that voters in less than democratic states often are marginalized because of widespread election fraud. Field experiments in three different countries are here used to show that high-quality civil society observers can reduce fraud on election day. The results also confirm that all regimes are not equally sensitive to such interventions. For the first time new fraud forensics techniques are used to examine observer effects. I argue that a reduction in detectable fraud forces authorities to engage with the electorate more directly, instead of focusing their efforts on bureaucratically manipulating the outcome. It is suggested that when faced with monitoring, autocrats substitute election fraud with other forms of manipulation, in the form of vote buying and intimidation. This in itself constitutes a perverse form of empowerment of voters, perverse since the process continues to be both un-free and unfair.

(The draft paper can be downloaded here)

Autocratic Adaptation: The Strategic Use of Transparency and The Persistence of Election Fraud

: Election Fraud, Ballot Stuffing, Vote-Count Fraud, Fraud Forensics, Digit-Based Tests, Election Monitoring, Web Cameras, and Information Communication Technology.

Why would an autocrat want, or at least make it appear to want, to reduce election fraud? In recent years, non-democratic rulers have surprisingly begun to embrace fraud-reducing technologies, like web cameras or transparent ballot boxes. The reason for this is not found in international norms or domestic conditions for post-electoral protest, but rather in the null effect on the ruling party vote share. With the help of new fraud identification techniques, I argue that the installation of web cameras in polling stations changes how fraud is conducted. Web cameras do not reduce fraud, but rather make certain blatant forms of fraud, like ballot box stuffing, more costly. Autocrats then substitute for other types of fraud, such as fabricating vote count outside the view of the cameras, in order to secure electoral victory. Overall, this paper identifies this compensation mechanism where incumbents are able to prevent vote share losses, while contributing a veneer of legitimacy by self-initiating anti-fraud measures.

(The draft paper can be downloaded here)

Competitive Elections in Authoritarian States. Weak States, Strong Elites, and Fractional Societies in Central Asia and Beyond (2011)

(PhD Dissertation published as a book)

electoral competitiveness, authoritarianism, parliamentary elections, candidates, clientelism, political parties, market reform, privatization, clan, ethnicity, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan.

Why do some authoritarian states have competitive elections? This study shows that whenever there is a balance of power between candidates, competitiveness will ensue. Three main sources of candidate-level electoral power are identified: state, market, and society. State-affiliated candidates in authoritarian states perform well due to favorable treatment by state institutions. Market actors perform well due to financial resources. Market actors arise when economic reforms create a class of entrepreneurs that defend their interests by running for public office, often challenging state sanctioned candidates. The strength of candidates capitalizing on social cleavages, here mainly defined as ‘clan’ or ethnic, is found to be exaggerated in the literature. Electoral competitiveness that is the result of an intra-elite balance of power should not be confused with democracy. This form of raw competitiveness, where clientelism is pervasive and accountability mechanisms are weak, is an affront to the democratic ideal.

(The book can be downloaded here)

Will the Real Populists Please Stand Up? Revisiting the Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America
(Co-authored with Francisco R. Rodríguez and Emmanuel Letouz)

Keywords: Populism, Macro-economy, Sustainability, Ideology, Human Development, and Latin America.

Latin America offers a rich ground to revisit a central political economy debate: do leftist governments that pursue aggressive social agendas implement less sustainable macroeconomic policies than those of their center and right-wing counterparts? Twenty years ago, Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards (D&E) proposed an affirmative answer to this question. We revisit these issues econometrically in light of the experience of 20 Latin American countries since the 1970. Our approach departs from D&E’s in three respects. First, we systematically analyze a panel of Latin American countries, in contrast to the case study approach of D&E. Second, we use long-run indicators of sustainability as well as more standard macro-fiscal variables. Third, we use an ex post, rather than ex ante, definition of ‘populism’. Overall, our results do not support the general assertion that left-wing regimes implement less economically sustainable policies.

(The working paper can be downloaded here)