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DPI416 Electoral Integrity

Home Page Fall 2016


Countries around the world share challenges in meeting international standards of electoral integrity. The most overt malpractices used by rulers include imprisoning dissidents, harassing adversaries, coercing voters, vote-rigging counts, and finally, if losing, blatantly disregarding the people’s choice. Serious violations of human rights, undermining electoral credibility, are widely condemned by domestic observers and the international community. 

But in many countries, minor irregularities and subtle glitches are more common, exemplified by inaccurate voter registers, maladministration of polling, petty corruption, pro-government media, vote miscounts, and excessively high legal vote thresholds to win elected office. Malpractices occur even in long-established democracies, exemplified by the notorious hanging chads in Florida in 2000, more recent accusations of voter suppression through over-zealous identification requirements during the Obama-Romney contest, [i] and security vulnerabilities in UK postal ballots.[ii] Even where electoral management bodies prove impartial, professional and independent, they face new challenges in maintaining integrity, exemplified by contemporary European debates about the most appropriate regulation of campaign finance, the rules governing political broadcasting, and the deployment of new voting technologies.[iii] 

Many actors have become engaged in strengthening electoral integrity within each country, including Electoral Management Bodies, election watch and media watch NGOs, democratic reformers and local stakeholders, as well as international agencies, including the UN, UNDP, IFES, EU, OAS, OSCE, AU, NDI, the Carter Center, and Global Integrity. Work in this area has expanded dramatically during the last twenty years, in all countries worldwide. 

Electoral integrity and electoral malpractice have generated a growing body of research among both the academic and policymaking communities. The burgeoning literature has started to explore many issues, focusing upon three questions: when do elections meet international standards of electoral integrity? When do they fail to do so? And what can be done to mitigate these problems? 

New datasets have sought to quantify and measure the quality of elections.[iv] Research has used techniques of electoral forensics, expert evaluations, and randomized control field-experiments to detect the distribution and analyze the causes of electoral malpractice.[v] 

Scholars have explored the potential impact of flawed contests, notably for the persistence of autocracy, regime transitions, and processes of democratization by elections.[vi] Studies have also sought to evaluate the effectiveness of remedies designed to deal with malpractices, including monitoring by electoral observers, strengthening the capacity of electoral officials, improving dispute resolution mechanisms, and reforming the legal framework regulating party finance and campaign broadcasting.[vii] 


The aims of this class are (i) to provide an overview of this rapidly expanding area of public policy; (ii) to sharpen your understanding of the underlying concepts, methods, techniques, indices and evidence used for monitoring electoral integrity; (iii) to develop your applied skills in analyzing electoral integrity and malpractices; (iv) to identify the most effective policy interventions which are available for strengthening electoral integrity. 


Part I in this class will outline the concept, indices, and evidence of electoral integrity and malpractices, then Part II will consider why electoral integrity matters for a series of challenges, and Part III will analyze what remedies are most effective for strengthening integrity. The conclusions will discuss your research papers and consider the broader lessons from the class. 


The class is open to multiple methods and approaches, including comparative case-studies, electoral forensics, econometric analysis, survey analysis, and other analytical techniques. The class is global, covering challenges worldwide, as well as problems during the November U.S. presidential elections.

Office Hours

To see me for Tuesday office hours, sign up for a slot online using http://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/bobwp


[i] Richard K. Scher. 2010. The Politics of Disenfranchisement: Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America? New York: M.E. Sharpe.

[ii] Stuart Wilks-Heeg  28 April 2008. Purity of elections in the UK: causes for concern. York: The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust; Sam Buckley.  2011. Banana Republic UK? Vote rigging, fraud and error in British elections since 2001. Open Rights Group; House of Commons Library. 12 March 2012. Postal voting and electoral fraud 2001-09. SN/PC/3667 London: House of Commons.

[iii] Karl-Heinz Nassmacher. 2009. The Funding of Party Competition: Political Finance in 25 Democracies. Nomos; Kevin Casas-Zamora. 2004. Paying for Democracy. Essex: ECPR Press; Michael Koss. 2011. The Politics of Party Funding. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Magnus Öhman and Hani Zainulbhai. 2011. Political Finance Regulation: The Global Experience. Washington, DC: IFES.

[iv] See Sarah Birch. 2012. Electoral Malpractice. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Susan D. Hyde and Nikolay Marinov. Codebook for National Elections across Democracy and Autocracy (NELDA) Nov 10th 2011; Judith Kelley. 2010. Quality of Elections Data Codebookhttp://sites.duke.edu/kelley/data/.

[v] R. Michael Alvarez, Thad E. Hall and Susan Hyde.  2008. Election fraud: detecting and deterring electoral manipulation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute; Mikhail Myagkov, Peter C. Ordeshook and Dimitri Shakin. 2009. The Forensics of Election Fraud: Russia and Ukraine. New York: Cambridge University Press; Sarah Birch. 2012. Electoral Malpractice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[vi] See Staffan Lindberg. 2006. Democracy and Elections in Africa. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press; Schedler, Andreas. (ed.). 2006. Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner; Jason Brownlee. 2007. Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization. New York: Cambridge University Press; Staffan Lindberg. Ed.  2009. Democratization by Elections: A New Mode of Transition. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press; Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War, New York: Cambridge University Press.

[vii] Eric C. Bjornlund. 2004. Beyond Free and Fair: Monitoring Elections and Building Democracy. Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Guy S. Goodwin-Gill. 2006. Free and Fair Elections. 2nd Edition. Geneva: Inter-parliamentary Union; John Hardin Young. 2009. International Election Principles: Democracy and the Rule of Law. Chicago: American Bar Association; Susan. D. Hyde. 2011. The Pseudo-Democrat’s Dilemma. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; Judith Kelley. 2012. Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works and Why it Often Fails. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Pippa Norris,
Aug 2, 2015, 10:29 AM