Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-8zxtt Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-15T19:13:31.177Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Partisan Poll Watchers and Electoral Manipulation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2019

New York University Abu Dhabi and University of New Mexico
Emory University
*Sergio J. Ascencio, Post Doctoral Associate, New York University Abu Dhabi,
Miguel R. Rueda, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Emory University,


How do parties protect themselves from electoral manipulation? To answer this question, we study the drivers of polling station party representatives’ presence and their impact on electoral outcomes in an environment where electoral irregularities are common. Using election data from the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, we find a robust positive correlation between the presence of party representatives and that party’s vote share. The evidence suggests that this correlation can be attributed to party representatives influencing the electoral results. We also formulate a game theoretic model of the levels of representation chosen by parties in a given precinct and structurally estimate its parameters. We find that parties send their representatives where they expect their opponents to send their own. The finding suggests representatives play a primarily protective role, even when they are often involved in irregularities themselves.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Previous versions were presented at the 2015 Electoral Integrity Project Workshop, the 2016 Southern Political Science Association meeting, the Comparative Politics workshop at the Universidad de los Andes, the Political Institutions and Methodology talks at Emory University, the 2016 European Political Science Association meeting, and the 2016 Formal Theory and Comparative Politics conference. We thank the audiences and discussants in those venues for their feedback, and, in particular, Horacio Larreguy, Jerey A. Karp, John Marshall, and Benjamin Marx for their thoughtful comments. We also thank four anonymous referees for outstanding feedback. Finally, we thank Abigail Heller and Montserrat Trujillo for their excellent work as research assistants. All remaining errors are our own. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



Angrist, Joshua D., and Pischke, Jorn-Steffen. 2009. Mostly Harmless Econometrics. An Empiricist’s Companion. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bajari, Patrick, Hong, Han, Krainer, John, and Nekipelov, Denis. 2010. “Estimating Static Models of Strategic Interactions.” Journal of Business & Economics 28 (4): 469–82.Google Scholar
Beaulieu, Emily, and Hyde, Susan D.. 2009. “In the Shadow of Democracy Promotion.” Comparative Political Studies 42 (3): 392415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birch, Sarah. 2011. Electoral Malpractice. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brancati, Dawn. 2014. “Building Confidence in Elections: The Case of Electoral Monitors in Kosovo.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 1 (1): 615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cantú, Francisco. 2014. “Identifying Irregularities in Mexican Local Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (4): 936–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cantú, Francisco, and García-Ponce, Omar. 2015. “‘Partisan Losers’ Effects: Perceptions of Electoral Integrity in Mexico.” Electoral Studies 39: 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Casas, Agustin, Díaz, Guillermo, and Trindade, Andre. 2017. “Who Monitors the Monitors? Effect of Party Observers on Electoral Outcomes.” Journal of Public Economics 145: 136–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chernykh, Svitlana, and Svolik, Milan W.. 2015. “Third-Party Actors and the Success of Democracy: How Electoral Commissions, Courts, and Observers Shape Incentives for Electoral Manipulation and Post-Election Protests.” The Journal of Politics 77 (2): 407–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
COFIPE. 2008. Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales. Mexico: Cámara de Diputados del Honorable Congreso de la Unión. Secretaría General, Secretaría de Servicios Parlamentarios.Google Scholar
Cornelius, Wayne A., and Craig, Ann L.. 1991. The Mexican Political System in Transition. California: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies.Google Scholar
Crisman-Cox, Casey, and Gibilisco, Michael. 2018. “Audience Costs and the Dynamics of War and Peace.” American Journal of Political Science 62 (3): 566–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Paula, Áureo. 2013. “Econometric Analysis of Games with Multiple Equilibria.” Annual Review of Economics 5: 107–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gans-Morse, Jordan, Mazzuca, Sebastian, and Nichter, Simeon. 2013. “Varieties of Clientelism: Machine Politics during Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (2): 415–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gingerich, Daniel W. 2014. “Brokered Politics in Brazil: An Empirical Analysis.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 9 (3): 269300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gingerich, Daniel W., and Medina, Luis Fernando. 2013. “The Endurance and Eclipse of the Controlled Vote: A Formal Model of Vote Brokerage under the Secret Ballot.” Economics and Politics 25 (3): 453–80.Google Scholar
Hicken, Allen D. 2007. How Do Rules and Institutions Encourage Vote Buying? In Elections for Sale. The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying, ed. Schaffer, Frederic C.. Colorado: Lynne Rienner, pp. 4760.Google Scholar
Hicken, Allen D. 2011. “Clientelism.” Annual Review of Political Science 42: 289310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hotz, V. Joseph, and Miller, Robert A.. 1993. “Conditional Choice Probabilities and the Estimation of Dynamic Models.” The Review of Economic Studies 60 (3): 497529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hyde, Susan. 2007. “The Observer Effect in International Politics: Evidence from a Natural Experiment.” World Politics 60 (1): 3763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hyde, Susan D., and Marinov, Nikolay. 2014. “Information and Self-Enforcing Democracy: The Role of International Election Observation.” International Organization 68 (2): 329–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ichino, Nahomi, and Schundeln, Matthias. 2012. “Deterring or Displacing Electoral Irregularities? Spillover Effects of Observers in a Randomized Field Experiment in Ghana.” The Journal of Politics 74 (1): 292307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Imai, Kosuke, Park, Bethany, and Greene, Kenneth F.. 2015. “Using the Predicted Responses from List Experiments as Explanatory Variables in Regression Models.” Political Analysis 23: 180–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalandrakis, Tasos, and Spirling, Arthur. 2012. “Radical Moderation: Recapturing Power in Two-Party Parliamentary Systems.” American Journal of Political Science 56 (2): 413–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelley, Judith G.. 2012. Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works, and Why it Often Fails. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Kitschelt, Herbert, and Wilkinson, Steven I.. 2007. Citizen-Politician Linkages: An Introduction. In Patrons, Clients, and Policies, eds. Kitschelt, Herbert and Wilkinson, Steven I.. New York: Cambridge University Press, 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Larreguy, Horacio, Montiel Olea, Cesar E., and Querubin, Pablo. 2017. “Political Brokers: Partisans or Agents? Evidence from the Mexican Teacher’s Union.” American Journal of Political Science 61 (4): 877–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Larreguy, Horacio, Marshall, John, and Querubin, Pablo. 2016. “Parties, Brokers, and Voter Mobilization: How Turnout Buying Depends upon the Party’s Capacity to Monitor Brokers.” American Political Science Review 110 (1): 160–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehoucq, Fabrice. 2003. “Electoral Fraud: Causes, Types, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Political Science 6: 233–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lehoucq, Fabrice E., and Molina, Iván. 2002. Stuffing the Ballot Box: Fraud, Electoral Reform, and Democratization in Costa Rica. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Little, Andrew T. 2015. “Fraud and Monitoring in Non-competitive Elections.” Political Science Research and Methods 3 (1): 2141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Magaloni, Beatriz. 2006. Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mercado, Lauro Gasca. 2013. Clientelismo electoral: compra, coacción y otros mecanismos que limitan el voto libre y secreto en México. In Ideas para una nueva reforma electoral, eds. Ugalde, Luis Carlos and Loret de Mola, Gustavo Rivera. México D.F.: Centro de Estudios Espinosa Yglesias, 236–75.Google Scholar
Nichter, Simeon. 2008. “Vote Buying or Turnout Buying? Machine Politics and the Secret Ballot.” American Political Science Review 102 (1): 1931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nichter, Simeon, and Palmer-Rubin, Brian. 2015. Clientelism, Declared Support, and Mexico’s 2012 Campaign. In Mexico’s Evolving Democracy: A Comparative Study of the 2012 Elections, eds. Domínguez, Jorge I., Greene, Kenneth F., Lawson, Chappell H., and Moreno, Alejandro. Baltimore: MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 200–26.Google Scholar
Nichter, Simeon, and Peress, Michael. 2017. “Request Fulfilling, when Citizens Demand Clientelist Benefits.” Comparative Political Studies 50 (8): 1086–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oster, Emily. 2017. “Unobservable Selection and Coefficient Stability: Theory and Evidence.” Journal of Business Economics and Statistics. DOI: 10.1080/07350015.2016.1227711.Google Scholar
Pesendorfer, Martin, and Schmidt-Dengler, Philipp. 2008. “Asymptotic Least Squares Estimators for Dynamic Games.” The Review of Economic Studies 75 (3): 833–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rozenas, Arturas. 2016. “Office Insecurity and Electoral Manipulation.” The Journal of Politics 78 (11): 232–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rueda, Miguel R. 2015. “Buying Votes with Imperfect Local Knowledge and a Secret Ballot.” Journal of Theoretical Politics 27 (3): 428–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rueda, Miguel R. 2017. “Small Aggregates, Big Manipulation: Vote Buying Enforcement and Collective Monitoring.” American Journal of Political Science 61 (1): 163–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rundlett, Ashlea, and Svolik, Milan. 2016. “Deliver the Vote! Micromotives and Macrobehavior in Electoral Fraud.” American Political Science Review 110 (1): 180–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simpser, Alberto. 2012. “Does Electoral Manipulation Discourage Voter Turnout? Evidence from Mexico.” The Journal of Politics 74 (3): 782–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simpser, Alberto. 2013. Why Governments and Parties Manipulate Elections: Theory, Practice, and Implications. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simpser, Alberto, and Donno, Daniela. 2012. “Can International Election Monitoring Harm Governance?The Journal of Politics 74 (2): 501–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Alastair, and Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce. 2012. “Contingent Prize Allocation and Pivotal Voting.” British Journal of Political Science 42 (2): 371–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stokes, Susan C. 2005. “Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina.” American Political Science Review 99 (3): 315–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stokes, Susan C., Dunning, Thad, Nazareno, Marcelo, and Brusco, Valeria. 2013. Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Szwarcberg, Mariela. 2012. “Uncertainty, Political Clientelism, and Voter Turnout in Latin America: Why Parties Conduct Rallies in Argentina.” Comparative Politics 45 (1): 88106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Szwarcberg, Mariela. 2014. “Political Parties and Rallies in Latin America.” Party Politics 20 (3): 456–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ugalde, Luis Carlos, and Rivera, Gustavo. 2014. Fortalezas y debilidades del sistema electoral mexicano. Perspectiva estatal e internacional. Mexico: Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación.Google Scholar
Vicente, Pedro C. 2013. “Is Vote Buying Effective? Evidence from a Field Experiment in West Africa.” The Economic Journal 124 (574): F356–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ziblatt, Daniel. 2009. “Shaping Democratic Practice and the Causes of Electoral Fraud: Theory and Evidence from Pre-1914 Germany.” American Political Science Review 103: 121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Ascencio and Rueda Dataset

Supplementary material: PDF

Ascencio and Rueda supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Ascencio and Rueda supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 18.7 MB
Submit a response


No Comments have been published for this article.