Candidate Filtering: The Strategic Use of Electoral Fraud in Russia

63 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 20 Aug 2019

See all articles by David Szakonyi

David Szakonyi

George Washington University; National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: August 16, 2019


Governments have many tools at their disposal to tip competitive electoral races in their favor. But we know little about when and why officials employ different strategies. This paper argues that electoral malpractice centered on manipulating institutions helps shield incumbent government from public anger and criminal prosecution. To demonstrate this, I focus the analysis on one controversial but widespread institutional tactic: the use of registration rules to reject certain candidacies. First, I show survey experimental evidence that voters respond more negatively to blatant forms of fraud, such as ballot-stuffing, than they do to institutional tactics, such as candidate filtering. Next I argue that because incumbents face lower costs from rejecting certain candidates, they are able to strategically deploy this type of fraud to win competitive races. Evidence in support comes from 22,288 mayoral races in Putin-era Russia, where only 50 ruling party candidates saw their registration blocked. Candidates filtering is more likely when incumbents sense electoral vulnerability or face credible challengers to their rule. Taken together this article suggests that the technology of electoral malpractice helps determine when and how incumbents regimes violate electoral integrity.

Keywords: elections, fraud, autocracy, authoritarian regimes, Russia, campaigns

Suggested Citation

Szakonyi, David, Candidate Filtering: The Strategic Use of Electoral Fraud in Russia (August 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

David Szakonyi (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017

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