Category Archives: International elections

Election forensics and machine learning

We recently published a new paper on election forensics in PLOS ONE, “Election forensics: Using machine learning and synthetic data for possible election anomaly detection.” . It’s a paper that I wrote with Mali Zhang (a recent PhD student at Caltech), and Ines Levin at UCI. PLOS ONE is an open access journal, so there is no paywall!

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Assuring election integrity is essential for the legitimacy of elected representative democratic government. Until recently, other than in-person election observation, there have been few quantitative methods for determining the integrity of a democratic election. Here we present a machine learning methodology for identifying polling places at risk of election fraud and estimating the extent of potential electoral manipulation, using synthetic training data. We apply this methodology to mesa-level data from Argentina’s 2015 national elections.

This new PLOS ONE paper advances the paper that Ines and I coauthored with Julia Pomares, “Using machine learning algorithms to detect election fraud”, that appeared in the volume of papers that I edited, Computational Social Science: Discovery and Prediction. This is an area where my research group and some of my collaborators are continuing to work on methodologies to quickly obtain elections data and analyze it for anomalies and outliers, similar to our Monitoring the Election project. More on all of this soon!

Turkish election preview

The OSCE/ODIHR’s Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) has issued a report in anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held on June 12, 2011.  The full text of the report is available at, but I thought a few features might spark the interest of our readers.

Most importantly, Turkish law has been changed so that, for the first time, parties and candidates can purchase advertisements (I think this refers to radio and television, but the report does not make this clear, see pg. 9).  Candidates are also awarded free air time during the last seven days of the campaign:

Parties are entitled to two 10-minute slots on radio and television each. Additional airtime is granted to parties with a parliamentary group (10 minutes), the party in power or senior partner in a coalition government (20 minutes), minor partners in the coalition (15 minutes) and the main opposition party  (10 minutes). Independent candidates do not qualify for free airtime.

Surely, however, the start of paid media advertising should make this a fascinating campaign.

Advertising has to be understood within the context of continuing tension over restrictions on speech, viz:

Law No. 6112 ‘On the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Broadcasting’ (hereafter, Law on Broadcasting)  and the Law on Political Parties continue to prohibit, in a disproportionate manner, activities that might be perceived as insulting ‘Turkishness’, the republic or state bodies and institutions, national and moral values of the community and reforms and principles of Atatürk, inciting enmity or hatred among the population and promoting terrorist organizations.

The requirement previously to use only Turkish in all advertisements has been relaxed, however.

In terms of election administration, the Supreme Board of Elections (SBE) will, for the first time, not require fingers to be inked after voting; they have decided that their national voter registration system provides sufficient protection against fraud and double voting.  They are using transparent ballot boxes, again for the first time.  Most of the other changes since the last election, in 2007, create a more transparent and faster process for counting and reporting results.