Deliver the Vote! Micromotives and Macrobehavior in Electoral Fraud
American Political Science Review, Forthcoming
48 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 2, 2014
Most election fraud is not conducted centrally by incumbents but rather locally by a machinery consisting of a multitude of political operatives. How does an incumbent ensure that his agents deliver fraud when needed and as much as is needed? We address this and related puzzles in the political organization of election fraud by studying the perverse consequences of two distinct incentive conflicts: the principal-agent problem between an incumbent and his local agents, and the collective action problem among the agents. Using the global game methodology, we show that these incentive conflicts result in a herd dynamic among the agents that tends to either oversupply or undersupply fraud, rarely delivering the amount of fraud that would be optimal from the incumbent’s point of view. This equilibrium dynamic explains when and why electoral fraud fails to deliver incumbent victories, why incumbents who enjoy genuine popularity often engage in seemingly unnecessary fraud, and it predicts that the extent of fraud should be increasing in both the incumbent’s genuine support and reported results across precincts. A statistical analysis of anomalies in precinct-level results from the 2011-12 Russian legislative and presidential elections supports our key claims.
Keywords: electoral fraud, global games, principal-agent problems
JEL Classification: P16; C72; D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation