Electoral corruption: causes, consequences and reforms



From open secrets to secret ballots: Voters’ political autonomy and democratic electoral reforms. 2015. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Cambridge Series in Comparative Politics).



Unfinished Business: the democratization of electoral practices in Britain and Germany. (with Kimuli Kasara). Comparative Political Studies. Forthcoming.

[Paper] [Replication files]

This paper explains legislators’ support electoral reforms reducing electoral irregularities and protecting voters’ autonomy at the ballot box in Britain and Germany in the late nineteenth century. We argue that the main political cleavage over the adoption of new legislation to limit illicit electoral practices pitted politicians able to take advantage of opportunities for vote buying and intimidation against those who could not do so because of unfavorable political and economic conditions in their district. We examine the political, partisan and economic factors accounting for candidates’ ability to engage in electoral irregularities and show that, in both countries, resource constrained candidates were more likely to support the introduction of electoral reforms. Because the primary illicit electoral practice differs across these two cases – vote buying in Britain and economic intimidation in Germany – some of the political and economic factors accounting for legislators’ support for reform differ across these cases.


Rural inequality, labor mobility and democratic reforms (with Martin Ardanaz), Comparative Political Studies, 2014. 47 (12): 1739- 1769.


A large body of scholarship has asserted that inequalities in the distribution of fixed assets act as a barrier to democratic transitions. This paper proposes a theoretical and empirical amendment of this finding, by arguing that employment conditions in the countryside, rather than inequalities in the distribution of fixed assets affected electoral outcomes in societies characterized by high levels of rural inequality. Using empirical evidence from the Prussian districts of Imperial Germany during the period between 1871 and 1912, we show that relative labor market shortages of agricultural workers affected electoral outcomes under conditions of an imperfect protection of electoral secrecy. Shortages of agricultural workers both reduced the electoral strength of conservative politicians and increased the willingness of rural voters to ‘take electoral risks’ and vote for the opposition Social Democratic Party. Labor shortages also affect preferences of individual legislators over the reform of electoral institutions. We find that politicians in districts experiencing high levels of labor shortage and higher costs of electoral intimidation are more willing to support changes in electoral rules that increase the protection of electoral secrecy. In theoretical terms, our findings contribute to the literature linking rural inequality and democratization, by demonstrating the importance of labor scarcity as a source of political cleavages over electoral reforms.

The Production of electoral intimidation: economic and political incentives (with Boliang Zhu). The Journal of Comparative Politics. 2015. 48(1), 23- 41.


This paper presents an account of the conditions under which politicians and their electoral agents engage in the supply of electoral intimidation which seeks to affect the choices made by voters at the ballot box. We characterize the political factors that impinge on the decisions of political candidates to draw electoral support from state employees and private actors and the factors that affect the decisions of the latter to engage in the production of electoral intimidation. Empirically, our paper examines the political and economic determinants of electoral irregularities in German elections during the period between 1870 and 1912. Consistent with our theoretical argument, we find that high electoral fragmentation among right wing parties constrains the occurrence of electoral intimidation. The most salient economic variables that affect the decisions of private actors to supply electoral intimidation is the occupational heterogeneity of a district. By contrast, other economic conditions in a district, such as the skill profile of the labor force, have no effect on the incidence of electoral intimidation.