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Do Fairer Elections Increase the Responsiveness of Politicians?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 August 2019

Washington University in St. Louis
*George Kwaku Ofosu, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis,


Leveraging novel experimental designs and 2,160 months of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) spending by legislators in Ghana, I examine whether and how fairer elections promote democratic responsiveness. The results show that incumbents elected from constituencies that were randomly assigned to intensive election-day monitoring during Ghana’s 2012 election spent 19 percentage points more of their CDFs during their terms in office compared with those elected from constituencies with fewer monitors. Legislators from all types of constituencies are equally present in parliament, suggesting that high levels of monitoring do not cause politicians to substitute constituency service for parliamentary work. Tests of causal mechanisms provide suggestive evidence that fairer elections motivate high performance through incumbents’ expectations of electoral sanction and not the selection of better candidates. The article provides causal evidence of the impact of election integrity on democratic accountability.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

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I thank my research partners in Ghana: the Center for Democratic Development and Coalition of Domestic Election Observers. Emmanuel Asante, E. Gyimah-Boadi, Franklin Oduro, and Regina Amanfo were generous with their time to discuss aspects of the project during my several visits to Ghana. I also thank officials at the Ghana District Assemblies’ Common Fund Administration for providing data on legislators’ Constituency Development Fund. I received comments on an earlier version of this paper from participants at seminars at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Center for African Studies at Stanford. I am grateful for helpful comments from Omer Ali, Graeme Blair, Sarah Brierley, Darin Christensen, Brian Crisp, Larry Diamond, Justin Fox, Barbara Geddes, Chad Hazlett, Galen Murray, Daniel Posner, Michael Thies, Margit Tavits, Andrea Vilán, and five anonymous referees. This research benefits from my prior research with Joseph Asunka, Sarah Brierley, Miriam Golden, and Eric Kramon on Ghana’s 2012 elections. The initial study was approved by UCLA IRB# 12-001543 on October 26, 2012, and the follow-up by UCLA IRB# 15-001142 on August 7, 2015. Funding for the initial study came from the U.K.’s Ghana office of the Department for International Development and an NSF Grant for Rapid Response Research (SES-1265247) [Miriam Golden (PI)]. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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