Monday, October 31, 2016

Presidential Power Guest Post

My guest blog post about presidential involvement in the appointment of electoral administrators, focusing on Ukraine, was just published on the Presidential Power Blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Research on Election Administration

Two forthcoming articles in the journals Governance and Election Law Journal evaluate election administration during Ukraine's 2014 snap parliamentary elections. Both of them draw from my National Science Foundation grant (SES - 1462110) and the election administrator surveys it supported.

The article in Governance, co-authored with Nazar Boyko and Michael Thunberg, investigates how the lures of professionalization and corruption interact in a bureaucracy featuring temporary civil servants. We demonstrate that aspects of professionalization are present in District Electoral Commissions (DECs) and Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs) through recruitment and training, and are associated with variation in competency-based activities like completing protocols in a timely manner. These influences coexist with temptations to behave in a biased manner, especially due to side payments that parties provide to their affiliated commissioners. Many of these commissioners acknowledge an implicit quid pro quo in which payments are associated with expectations of better election outcomes for their affiliated parties. In the article, we show how these forces interact and discuss how Ukraine - and other transitional societies - can confront the challenge of professionalizing bureaucracies.

The article in Election Law Journal, co-authored with Nazar Boyko, addresses how administrators face the challenges of implementing elections during violent conflict. We evaluate how institutional, spatial, partisan, and professional factors affect variation in perceptions of readiness, security, and integrity. We find that spatial and capacity-building measures have the most influence on outcomes. Administrators expressed the greatest concerns about elections in the embattled East, but little evidence of "contagion" beyond the East was present. These findings support some of our earlier work using election returns in which we found limited effects beyond the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk, and speak to the success of Ukrainian officials in containing the conflict. We also found that participation in training was associated with better outcomes, suggesting that enhanced professionalization efforts by Ukrainian institutions and the international community can improve readiness, security, and integrity.

Supplementary Material:
1) Online appendix for the Election Law Journal article
2) Survey data for the Governance and Election Law Journal articles.

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.