Nazar Boyko (Cifra Group) and I are presenting a research paper at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference that investigates how partisan staffing of polling stations affects election outcomes. We focus on the role of technical parties: formally registered parties whose primary purpose is not gaining seats for themselves, but rather assisting their patrons.* Political observers in Eastern Europe and Eurasia have argued that technical parties (and candidates) are ubiquitous and influential, but no research thus far has empirically classified them or evaluated their effects.
Our paper relies on extensive personnel data from Ukraine's 2012 parliamentary elections to identify the most active technical parties, connect technical parties to their patrons, and assess how the assignment of partisan polling station officers influences election outcomes. We find that the presence of technical party-affiliated officers is associated with improved outcomes for the Party of Regions and Batkivshchyna, but that the extent and magnitude of effects is greater for the Party of Regions.
The paper's bottom line is that electoral administration matters, and staffing practices can influence results. Partisan staffing of electoral management bodies, coupled with liberal registration rules permitting large numbers of parties to participate, creates strong incentives for major parties to influence decision-making through affiliated technical parties. The participation and influence of technical parties has the potential to undermine the perception that elections are managed in a free and fair manner.
A draft version of the paper is available for download; comments are welcome.
* Patrons are major parties or candidates contesting in the election who have especially close ties to technical parties.