Friday, July 15, 2016

Local Bosses in Ukraine's Elections

On July 17, 2016, Ukraine will hold by-elections for parliamentary seats in seven districts: DEC 23 (Volyn), DEC 27 (Dnipropetrovsk/Dnipro), DEC 85 (Ivano-Frankivsk), DEC 114 (Luhansk), DEC 151 (Poltava), DEC 183 (Kherson), and DEC 206 (Chernihiv). As Brian Mefford notes in his detailed assessment of each race, candidates with business-sector profiles and oligarchic connections are prominent competitors.

In a forthcoming article in Europe-Asia Studies, Fredrik Sjoberg and I address the connection between business-affiliated candidate and allegations of fraud, using data from the 2012 parliamentary elections. We categorize some business sector candidates as potential "bosses," individuals whose profiles render them more likely to benefit from local political machines. In our analysis, we evaluate whether or not higher levels of competition among bosses is associated with more allegations of bribery, intimidation, or campaign violations using crowdsourced observation data.

We find that more bosses in a race is generally associated with more allegations of vote buying. As the figure below shows, higher levels of bribery are also associated with victory by independent candidates. Regional effects are based on comparisons with the East (Donetsk and Luhansk). Relative to the East, all regions have a negative sign (fewer allegations than in Donbas). But, only the coefficients in the contiguous Eastcentral region and Crimea are statistically significant (Eastcentral at .05 and Crimea at .10). The regional effects may be due to variation in the tactics of fraud, or variation in regional reporting.

Selected Coefficients Associated with Vote Buying
Note: The figure shows coefficients and 95% confidence intervals.
The fall of Viktor Yanukovych and disruption of Party of Regions-affiliated networks has not eliminated political machines. The potential impact of local bosses still looms large in Ukraine's elections, especially in single-member district races.

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Zealand's Flag Referendum

Around a year ago, I had the good fortune to (virtually) meet Ted Kaye, a leading vexillologist and author of the flag design guide Good Flag, Bad Flag. The ongoing New Zealand Flag Referendum prompted a conversation about the intersection between voting and flag design, along with an invitation to publish a short piece in the newsletter of the Portland Flag Association. My note on New Zealand's choice is available online.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wartime Elections

In a forthcoming Electoral Studies article, Michael Thunberg, Nazar Boyko, and I assess the effects of conflict on the 2014 snap presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Our findings have relevance for the upcoming local elections to be held at the end of October as well as elections outside of Ukraine.

Civil and international crises impede state capacity and inhibit the conduct of free and fair elections. Yet, democratic (and semi-democratic) countries have held elections during wars and insurrections. The United States conducted elections during its Civil War on the territories the Union controlled, and many contemporary examples exist across the globe. Election administrators face the challenges of maximizing enfranchisement, security, and integrity when state sovereignty and the safety of participants are under threat. Our article analyzes how Ukraine adapted its election administration to manage the process in wartime conditions. We found that:
  • Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs) located closer to the conflict zone were more likely to be relocated and report lower levels of citizen participation. The map below shows the location of PECs that were closed on election day: dark blue dots are PECs that were never established and red dots are PECs that were established but did not report election day results. 
  • While conflict effects were measurable in Donetsk and Luhansk, they did not extend outside Donbas,* suggesting that Ukrainian state authorities successfully contained conflict. PECs situated closer to active combat experienced substantially lower participation than those located closer to the borders of contiguous regions (Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhia). The effects of distance from the conflict zone on voter behavior disappeared outside of Donbas.
  • Partisan effects of wartime management especially impacted voters who had supported Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions in past contests. It is unclear how much of the diminished participation in open PECs in Donbas was due to concerns about safety or the absence of parties/candidates that citizens supported.

Closed PECs in the 2014 Snap Parliamentary Election. Figure by Roman Sverdan, CIFRA Group
The upcoming local elections face similar difficulties. Although the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic have postponed their local elections, enfranchising voters and administering elections in Donbas is fraught with problems. Elections will not be administered on territories that Ukrainian security services do not control. Just as in October 2014, large numbers of voters located in Donbas will be unable to cast their ballots in October 2015.**

Outside of Donbas, the decentralization of administration for local elections creates additional impediments. The Central Electoral Commission is not collecting and disseminating data as it would in national elections; these responsibilities have been delegated to Territorial Electoral Commissions at the local level. Variation in local conditions and the quality of TEC personnel may generate different experiences for voters, candidates, and parties.

====================================================================
* The exception to this observation is Crimea, where elections could not be held.
** Enfranchising Internally Displaced Persons is an additional challenge. We did not analyze effects on these voters in the article as data are unavailable.
====================================================================
Replication Data for the Electoral Studies article.
Data and Stata .do files for the tables are available for download.
====================================================================

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Technical Parties, Partisan Election Management Bodies, and Election Outcomes

In the December 2015 edition of Electoral Studies (online now, gated), Nazar Boyko and I evaluate how efforts to "stack the deck" on electoral commissions affect voting outcomes in Ukraine. Institutional rules* and weak parties help major players to place affiliated individuals on precinct electoral commissions. We investigate whether or not the presence of "technical party"** commissioners benefits their patrons, and find evidence of statistically significant, albeit substantively small, "bonuses" in election returns.

While the ideal for election administration is neutral counting and compilation of ballots, the findings suggest that election administrators interpret rules (such as whether or not to validate disputed ballots) with partisan outcomes in mind. Various reforms could mitigate these effects, such as tightening eligibility requirements for parties/candidates to nominate commissioners, limiting replacements of commission staff, and professionalizing commissioners via improved training and enhanced state compensation.

=======================================================================

Data used in the analysis (.dta)

* Notably, staffing procedures that balance partisanship and liberal party/candidate registration requirements facilitate stacking.

** See Brian Mefford's blog post about the 2015 by-elections in Chernihiv for a current example of extremes in the deployment of technical candidates. Mefford notes that up to 30 or so technical candidates are associated with major candidates, with 127 candidates registered for that race alone.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Candidate Characteristics and the Construction of Party Lists

I am presenting a second Midwest Political Science Association Conference paper (available here) with Michael Lynch that addresses how political parties manage party lists.* Specifically, it investigates how careful cultivation of down-list candidates (those situated in hopeless list positions) may benefit the party. We take advantage of a unique feature of Lithuania's party-list vote - the presence of candidate preference votes - to gauge how characteristics associated with personal vote-seeking activities affect spatial variation in preference vote acquisition. We find that preference vote performance is enhanced in regions where candidates have a local connection (e.g., nativity or residency), even among those who do not contest the constituency tier of the mixed-member system. Our findings suggest that parties can enhance their overall performance by diversifying party lists, even among unelectable list positions.

==============================
*The authors thank Monika Aleknaviciute and Maksym Palamarenko for research assistance. The research was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES – 0751662, PIs Ellis Krauss, Robert Pekkanen, and Matt Soberg Shugart).