Why has Electoral Integrity Declined in Established Democracies? The Role of New Implementation Challenges and Institutional Drift in Post-Industrial, Digital-Era Election Administration

29 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014

See all articles by Toby S. James

Toby S. James

University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Once taken for granted, electoral integrity has been increasingly questioned in many established democracies, especially in the area of election administration, following high-profile cases of electoral malpractice. Studies from public administration have found that policies often fail at the implementation stage of the policy process but these sources of failure have not been systematically examined in previous studies on election administration. The paper explores the challenges that electoral administrators face in the implementation of elections through extensive interviews with the local election officials involved in running elections in the UK. It finds that there are some new challenges arising from broader socio-economic, technological and political changes occurring in post-industrial, digital-era democracies. It then uses Hacker’s (2004, 2005) concept of institutional drift to explain how the effect of electoral institutions can change over time as a result of exogenous factors. Procedures, which might have once been ‘fit for purpose’ in many democracies, are no longer as effective at ensuring high objective and subjective measures of electoral integrity. Some of the implications and solutions are then considered. Importantly, the accumulative effect of these developments is that electoral integrity may not be as easy to achieve in established democracies as it once was.

Keywords: election administration, electoral integrity, public administration, voter registration, institutional drift, new institutionalism

Suggested Citation

James, Toby S., Why has Electoral Integrity Declined in Established Democracies? The Role of New Implementation Challenges and Institutional Drift in Post-Industrial, Digital-Era Election Administration (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2109963

Toby S. James (Contact Author)

University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK ( email )

Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.tobysjames.com

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