Searching for Electoral Irregularities in an Established Democracy: Applying Benford’s Law Tests to Bundestag Elections in Unified Germany
Electoral Studies, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2011
Date Written: March 31, 2011
This article investigates electoral irregularities in the 1990 to 2005 Bundestag elections of unified Germany. Drawing on the Second-Digit Benford Law (2BL) by Mebane (2006), the analysis consists of comparing the observed frequencies of numerals of candidate votes and party votes at the precinct level against the expected frequencies according to Benford’s Law. Four central findings stand out. First, there is no evidence for systematic fraud or mismanagement with regard to candidate votes from districts where fraud would be most instrumental. Second, at the state level (Bundesland), there are 51 violations in 190 tests of the party list votes. Third, East German states are not more prone to violations than Western ones. This finding refutes the notion that the East’s more recent transition to democracy poses problems in electoral management. Fourth, a strong variation in patterns of violation across Bundesländer exists: states with dominant party control are more likely to display irregularities. The article concludes by hypothesizing and exploring the notion that partisan composition of nominees involved in the counting may produce a higher likelihood of violation and be a cause of Länder variation. This may especially be the case when a party dominates in a Bundesland or opponents to the former socialist regime party are involved in the counting.
Keywords: Benford's Law, Bundestag, elections, counting, Germany
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