Information Versus Control: The Electoral Consequences of Polling Place Creation
64 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021
Date Written: October 2, 2020
We examine the incentives incumbents face when creating new polling places. First, doing so improves incumbents’ ability to monitor brokers and voters by reducing the number of registered voters per polling station. Second, it reduces the distance traveled by citizens to vote, which
undercuts incumbents’ ability to control the electorate via turnout buying. We evaluate this trade-off in the context of Uganda, where the incumbent significantly influences electoral administration. Drawing on rich administrative data, we leverage discontinuities in the creation of polling places to causally identify the independent effects of (1) the number of voters per polling station and (2) distance to vote on electoral outcomes. We find that decreasing (1) improves incumbent electoral outcomes, while reducing (2) worsens them. The benefits for incumbents outweigh the costs, which rationalizes recent developments to expand polling infrastructure in Uganda and elsewhere.
Keywords: Polling Place Creation, Electoral Consequences
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation