Candidate Filtering: The Strategic Use of Electoral Manipulations in Russia
75 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 30 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 27, 2020
Incumbents have many tools to tip elections in their favor, yet we know little about how they choose between strategies. By comparing various tactics, this paper argues that electoral malpractice centered on manipulating institutions offers the greatest effectiveness while shielding incumbents from public anger and criminal prosecution. To demonstrate this, I focus on one widespread institutional tactic: preventing candidates from accessing the ballot. First, in survey experiments, Russian voters respond less negatively to institutional manipulations, such as rejecting candidates, than to blatant fraud, such as ballot-box stuffing. Next, using evidence from 22,288 Russian mayoral races, I show that lower societal and implementation costs enable incumbents to strategically reject candidacies from credible challengers and lessen electoral vulnerability. Finally, rejecting candidates beforehand reduces the need to commit fraud on election day, while still ensuring favorable outcomes. In all, the technology behind specific manipulations helps determine when and how incumbents violate electoral integrity.
Keywords: elections, fraud, autocracy, authoritarian regimes, Russia, campaigns
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