Election Fraud research from Fredrik Sjoberg

Fredrik Sjoberg recently sent along links to two quite interesting working papers from his research on election fraud.

Here are the papers, and their abstracts.

First, “Making Voters Count: Evidence from Field Experiments about the Efficacy of Domestic Election Observation.”

Here’s the abstract:

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.

Second, “Autocratic Adaptation: The Strategic Use of Transparency and The Persistence of Election Fraud.”

And the second paper’s abstract:

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.

Both of these are interesting papers to those who study election fraud and electoral monitoring.