Democratization after Democratization: how first wave democracies ended electoral corruption

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Between 1850 and 1918, many first wave democracies adopted electoral reforms that reduced the incidence of various forms of electoral malfeasance. These reforms imposed harsher punishments for bribing or the politicization of state resources during campaigns. They improved electoral secrecy, providing a better protection of voters’ autonomy. By mandating the presence of candidate representatives supervising electoral operations, reforms adopted at this time also reduced the incidence of electoral fraud. Drawing on analysis of parliamentary deliberations and roll call votes in France, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom, I examine the adoption of these reforms in first-wave democracies. I document how elite splits modified the calculations about the desirability of the status quo among legislators who could access resources to produce various forms of malfeasance, facilitating the formation of parliamentary majorities in support of electoral reforms.

Discussant: Marcin Walecki (Oxford)