Election observation is central to democracy promotion efforts around the world, yet relatively little is known about observers' effects on electoral quality. Do election observers deter electoral fraud, violence, and voter intimidation? Or do political parties strategically respond to the presence of observers, thereby negating their impact? This project leverages the random assignment of 1,000 election observers to polling stations during Ghana's 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections to address these questions. We show that observers significantly reduce indicators of fraud at the polling stations to which they are deployed. We also find, however, that political parties successfully relocate fraud from observed to unobserved stations in their historical strongholds, where they enjoy social penetration and political competition is low, whereas they are not able to do so in politically competitive constituencies. The presentation will also report preliminary results from a household survey conducted after the elections designed to measure observers’ effects on patterns of electoral violence and voter intimidation. The findings have implications for understanding political party behavior and the complex effects of governance interventions.
Eric Kramon received his PhD in political science from UCLA in 2013 and is a 2013-14 Minerva Postdoctoral Fellow. He will be an assistant professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University starting in Summer 2014. While at CDDRL, he is working on a book project on vote buying and clientelism in Africa, as well as additional projects on the impact of election observation on electoral fraud and electoral quality, ethnicity and the politics of public goods provision in Africa, and the political determinants of good governance reforms.