Elections and Democracy

On the eve of the midterms, our Review of the Week looks at how elections support democracy—and how they can threaten it.

How to rig an election

Cheeseman, Nic. by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas Yale, 2018
310p bibl index, 9780300204438 $26.00

Authoritarian rulers have many reasons to want to maintain elections because acquiring office through elections provides legitimacy. But these rulers also want to avoid losing office, which results in vastly diminished influence, eliminates the possibilities of legitimate graft, and could result in imprisonment or worse. Given those worries, leaders rig elections. This book provides a review of the many ways to rig elections. Districts may be drawn in ways that diminish the influence of blocs of voters. Voter registration rules can be altered to reduce registration of opposing voters. Opponents can be excluded by enacting burdensome candidate entry requirements, such as large numbers of signatures. Rulers may use government resources to curry the favor of voters by distributing various benefits. It is also possible to consistently distribute distorted, biased, or false information to influence voters’ views of rulers. Finally, violence against opponents can be encouraged. Together, these actions can significantly influence election outcomes. Cheeseman (Univ. of Birmingham, UK) and Klaas (London School of Economics, UK) present this information in a very accessible way. For readers who wish to understand how leaders across a variety of countries can manipulate elections, this is an excellent book.

Summing Up: Essential. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer: J. M. Stonecash, emeritus, Syracuse University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – Comparative Politics
Choice Issue: Oct 2018