Making Voters Count: Evidence from Field Experiments about the Efficacy of Domestic Election Observation
Columbia University Harriman Institute Working Paper No. 1
56 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012 Last revised: 19 Oct 2012
Date Written: August 17, 2012
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 ob- servers 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.
Keywords: Election Fraud, Field Experiment, Election Observation, Fraud Forensics, Digit-Based Tests, Vote-Count Fraud, Vote Buying, Sample-Based Observation (SBO), and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT)
JEL Classification: P16, D72, D73
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation