Research on election fraud in Ukrainian and Russian elections

Peter Ordeshook (Caltech) and Mikhail Myagkov (University of Oregon) have recently distributed two interesting working papers, one on fraud in Ukraine’s 2007 parliamentary election, and the other studying Russian elections.

The paper on Ukrainian elections is “Ukraine’s 2007 Parliamentary Elections: Free and Fair or Fraud Once Again and the Argument for Election Observers.” Here’s a quote from their conclusion, to give a flavor for what they show in this paper:

… we note that there is an important lesson to be learned from this analysis about encouraging free and fair elections and the role of independent objective observers. Notice that what leads us to suspect fraud in Donetsk in Figure 3 is the downwards deviation of a sample of precincts and their corresponding upwards deviation in Figure 4. Suppose, however, that votes had been transferred from Regions to the SPU uniformly across all precincts. In that case the relationship between V/E and T would have looked totally normal for both parties and the fraud would have been undetectable. In other words, we can detect fraud here only because a subset of precincts ‘acted’ differently than the rest. This, then, points the way on how to make the detection of fraud more likely. Specifically, if fraud is unlikely to occur in the presence of independent and objective observers, then their mere presence among a subset of polling stations will ensure that any fraud in the unobserved stations will be detectible by a careful examination of official returns.

Their paper on Russian elections has an interesting title, “Russian Elections: An Oxymoron of Democracy”. Their abstract describes the paper well:

Considerable controversy swirls around the extent to which Russia’s elections have been falsified. We argue here on the basis of an assessment of aberrant distributions of turnout in official election returns for each or Russia’s national elections beginning in 1995, that falsifications in the form of stuffed ballot boxes and artificially augmented election counts, whose significance was first apparent in its ethnic republics, has now spread to and metastasized within both rural and urban oblast districts. That spread, moreover, unashamedly accelerated during the Putin administration – notably the 2004 election – and has sustained itself thru the 2007 Duma parliamentary vote.

Ordeshook and Myagkov (along with their colleague, Dimitry Shaikin) have a chapter in our forthcoming edited volume on election fraud, where they discuss their methodology for detecting election fraud in detail. Our edited volume, Election Fraud: Detecting and Deterring Electoral Manipulation, will be available from Brookings Institution Press in May 2008.