In the December 2015 edition of Electoral Studies (online now, gated), Nazar Boyko and I evaluate how efforts to "stack the deck" on electoral commissions affect voting outcomes in Ukraine. Institutional rules* and weak parties help major players to place affiliated individuals on precinct electoral commissions. We investigate whether or not the presence of "technical party"** commissioners benefits their patrons, and find evidence of statistically significant, albeit substantively small, "bonuses" in election returns.
While the ideal for election administration is neutral counting and compilation of ballots, the findings suggest that election administrators interpret rules (such as whether or not to validate disputed ballots) with partisan outcomes in mind. Various reforms could mitigate these effects, such as tightening eligibility requirements for parties/candidates to nominate commissioners, limiting replacements of commission staff, and professionalizing commissioners via improved training and enhanced state compensation.
Data used in the analysis (.dta)
* Notably, staffing procedures that balance partisanship and liberal party/candidate registration requirements facilitate stacking.
** See Brian Mefford's blog post about the 2015 by-elections in Chernihiv for a current example of extremes in the deployment of technical candidates. Mefford notes that up to 30 or so technical candidates are associated with major candidates, with 127 candidates registered for that race alone.