Statistical detection of systematic election irregularities.
ABSTRACT: Democratic societies are built around the principle of free and fair elections, and that each citizen's vote should count equally. National elections can be regarded as large-scale social experiments, where people are grouped into usually large numbers of electoral districts and vote according to their preferences. The large number of samples implies statistical consequences for the polling results, which can be used to identify election irregularities. Using a suitable data representation, we find that vote distributions of elections with alleged fraud show a kurtosis substantially exceeding the kurtosis of normal elections, depending on the level of data aggregation. As an example, we show that reported irregularities in recent Russian elections are, indeed, well-explained by systematic ballot stuffing. We develop a parametric model quantifying the extent to which fraudulent mechanisms are present. We formulate a parametric test detecting these statistical properties in election results. Remarkably, this technique produces robust outcomes with respect to the resolution of the data and therefore, allows for cross-country comparisons.
Project description:With a majority of 'Yes' votes in the Constitutional Referendum of 2017, Turkey continued its drift towards an autocracy. By the will of the Turkish people, this referendum transferred practically all executive power to president Erdo?an. However, the referendum was confronted with a substantial number of allegations of electoral misconducts and irregularities, ranging from state coercion of 'No' supporters to the controversial validity of unstamped ballots. Here we report the results of an election forensic analysis of recent Turkish elections to clarify to what extent it is plausible that these voting irregularities were present and able to influence the outcome of the referendum. We apply statistical forensics tests to identify the specific nature of the alleged electoral malpractices. In particular, we test whether the data contains fingerprints for ballot stuffing (submission of multiple ballots per person during the vote) and voter rigging (coercion and intimidation of voters). Additionally, we perform tests to identify numerical anomalies in the election results. For the 2017 Constitutional Referendum we find systematic and highly significant statistical support for the presence of both ballot stuffing and voter rigging. In 11% of stations we find signs for ballot stuffing with a standard deviation (uncertainty of ballot stuffing probability) of 2.7% (4 sigma event). Removing such ballot-stuffing-characteristic anomalies from the data would tip the overall balance from 'No' to a majority of 'Yes' votes. The 2017 election was followed by early elections in 2018 to directly vote for a new president who would now be head of state and government. We find statistical irregularities in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections similar in size and direction to those in 2017. These findings validate that our results unveil systematic and potentially even fraudulent biases that require further attention in order to combat electoral malpractices.
Project description:Nowadays, a large number of countries combine formal democratic institutions with authoritarian practices. Although in these countries the ruling elites may receive considerable voter support, they often use several manipulation tools to control election outcomes. A common practice of these regimes is the coercion and mobilization of large numbers of voters. This electoral irregularity is known as voter rigging, distinguishing it from vote rigging, which involves ballot stuffing or stealing. We develop a statistical test to quantify the extent to which the results of a particular election display traces of voter rigging. Our key hypothesis is that small polling stations are more susceptible to voter rigging because it is easier to identify opposing individuals, there are fewer eyewitnesses, and interested parties might reasonably expect fewer visits from election observers. We devise a general statistical method for testing whether voting behavior in small polling stations is significantly different from the behavior in their neighbor stations in a way that is consistent with the widespread occurrence of voter rigging. On the basis of a comparative analysis, the method enables third parties to conclude that an explanation other than simple variability is needed to explain geographic heterogeneities in vote preferences. We analyze 21 elections in 10 countries and find significant statistical anomalies compatible with voter rigging in Russia from 2007 to 2011, in Venezuela from 2006 to 2013, and in Uganda in 2011. Particularly disturbing is the case of Venezuela, where the smallest polling stations were decisive to the outcome of the 2013 presidential elections.
Project description:Recently, mandatory vote-by-mail has received a great deal of attention as a means of administering elections in the United States. However, policy-makers disagree on the merits of this approach. Many of these debates hinge on whether mandatory vote-by-mail advantages one political party over the other. Using a unique pairing of historical county-level data that covers the past three decades and more than 40 million voting records from the two states that have conducted a staggered rollout of mandatory vote-by-mail (Washington and Utah), we use several methods for causal inference to show that mandatory vote-by-mail slightly increases voter turnout but has no effect on election outcomes at various levels of government. Our results find meaning given contemporary debates about the merits of mandatory vote-by-mail. Mandatory vote-by-mail ensures that citizens are given a safe means of casting their ballot while simultaneously not advantaging one political party over the other.
Project description:The ability to cast a mail ballot can safeguard the franchise. However, because there are often additional procedural protections to ensure that a ballot cast in person counts, voting by mail can also jeopardize people's ability to cast a recorded vote. An experiment carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates both forces. Philadelphia officials randomly sent 46,960 Philadelphia registrants postcards encouraging them to apply to vote by mail in the lead-up to the June 2020 primary election. While the intervention increased the likelihood a registrant cast a mail ballot by 0.4 percentage points (<i>P</i> = 0.017)-or 3%-many of these additional mail ballots counted only because a last-minute policy intervention allowed most mail ballots postmarked by Election Day to count.
Project description:In the last decade, health care reform has dominated U.S. public policy and political discourse. Double-digit rate increases in premiums in the Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2018 make this an ongoing issue that could affect future elections. A seminal event that changed the course of policy and politics around health care reform is the 2016 presidential election. The results of the 2016 presidential election departed considerably from polling forecasts. Given the prominence of the Affordable Care Act in the election, we test whether changes in health insurance coverage at the county-level correlate with changes in party vote share in the presidential elections from 2008 through 2016. We find that a one-percentage-point increase in county health insurance coverage was associated with a 0.25-percentage-point increase in the vote share for the Democratic presidential candidate. We further find that these gains on the part of the Democratic candidate came almost fully at the expense of the Republican (as opposed to third-party) presidential candidates. We also estimate models separately for states that did and did not expand Medicaid and find no differential effect of insurance gains on Democratic vote share for states that expanded Medicaid compared to those that did not. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that outcomes in health insurance markets played a role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The decisions made by the current administration, and how those decisions affect health insurance coverage and costs, may be important factors in future elections as well.
Project description:In response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), many scholars and policy makers are urging the United States to expand voting-by-mail programs to safeguard the electoral process. What are the effects of vote-by-mail? In this paper, we provide a comprehensive design-based analysis of the effect of universal vote-by-mail-a policy under which every voter is mailed a ballot in advance of the election-on electoral outcomes. We collect data from 1996 to 2018 on all three US states that implemented universal vote-by-mail in a staggered fashion across counties, allowing us to use a difference-in-differences design at the county level to estimate causal effects. We find that 1) universal vote-by-mail does not appear to affect either party's share of turnout, 2) universal vote-by-mail does not appear to increase either party's vote share, and 3) universal vote-by-mail modestly increases overall average turnout rates, in line with previous estimates. All three conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media.
Project description:Given the persistence of public doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy, which depress turnout, two prior experiments have shown precise evidence that both official governmental and unofficial mobilization campaigns providing assurances about ballot secrecy increase turnout among recently registered nonvoters. To assess whether these findings replicate in other political settings, we describe a replication experiment where a non-governmental, non-partisan mobilization campaign sent similar treatment mailings containing assurances about ballot secrecy protections to recently registered nonvoters during the 2014 general election in Mississippi. We find that sending this mailer has no effect on turnout rates in this setting, which is characterized by an unusually low baseline turnout rate. These results are consistent with past research concluding that nonpartisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) mail has very weak effects among very low turnout propensity registrants, and suggest that there are heterogeneous effects of ballot secrecy treatments associated with subjects' characteristics and the electoral context.
Project description:The number of votes correlates strongly with the money spent in a campaign, but the relation between the two is not straightforward. Among other factors, the output of a ballot depends on the number of candidates, voters, and available resources. Here, we develop a conceptual framework based on Shannon entropy maximization and Superstatistics to establish a relation between the distributions of money spent by candidates and their votes. By establishing such a relation, we provide a tool to predict the outcome of a ballot and to alert for possible misconduct either in the report of fundraising and spending of campaigns or on vote counting. As an example, we consider real data from two proportional elections with more than 6000 candidates each, where a detailed data verification is virtually impossible, and show that the number of potential misconducting candidates to audit can be reduced to less than ten.
Project description:A large-scale experiment during the 2010 U.S. Congressional Election demonstrated a positive effect of an online get-out-the-vote message on real world voting behavior. Here, we report results from a replication of the experiment conducted during the U.S. Presidential Election in 2012. In spite of the fact that get-out-the-vote messages typically yield smaller effects during high-stakes elections due to saturation of mobilization efforts from many sources, a significant increase in voting was again observed. Voting also increased significantly among the close friends of those who received the message to go to the polls, and the total effect on the friends was likely larger than the direct effect, suggesting that understanding social influence effects is potentially even more important than understanding the direct effects of messaging. These results replicate earlier work and they add to growing evidence that online social networks can be instrumental for spreading offline behaviors.
Project description:In recent decades, several countries have faced political tensions due to citizens' perceptions that their elections are fraudulent; some electors have even chosen not to vote because they believe that the results may be falsified. Thus, electoral fraud is a major issue. E-governance and e-voting are now being used in many countries, some of which are investigating blockchain solutions. The aim of this study is to investigate the potential contributions of blockchain technology to peace on a worldwide level by securing voting systems. Unfortunately, this technology is complex and could potentially generate conflict between actors in elections. Taking an exploratory approach, the authors chose a qualitative method to address this specific topic. Election observers and blockchain experts were interviewed to identify the technology's strengths and weaknesses. Our results emphasize the importance of trust and human factors in the voting process.