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  • Co-authored with Saad Gulzar and Luke Sonnet

In this report, written for the International Growth Centre, we present results of a pilot intervention conducted in Pakistan in partnership with a Member of a Provincial Assembly. The goal of the work was to improve communication and trust between voters and their elected representative. The technical core of the experiment utilized integrated voice response (IVR) technology. IVR allows politicians to record messages in their own voice and deliver them via robocalls to citizens. Citizens can respond to these questions by pressing keys on their phones. To allow the MPA to use IVR to communicate with voters, the project collected cell phone numbers from a random set of voters, helped the MPA script and record questions, sent out the recordings to voters, and collected and presented the aggregated responses to the MPA. Then follow-up calls were recorded and delivered. With funding from the International Growth Centre (IGC) and the Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC) project, a pilot study to generate proof of concept for the IVR component was conducted between February and June 2017. For the pilot, we randomly sampled 1,218 male heads of household who reside in 40 randomly selected communities that are located in 11 randomly selected Village Council areas. The pilot documented successful delivery of the IVR and improvement in some aspects of political engagement by respondents. Response rates on the part of the enrolled were greater than 30 percent. With funding from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the project is now scaling up in partnership with 40 MPAs.

Co-authored with Eric Kramon, George Ofosu, and Luke Sonnet

This paper studies election fraud in the competitive but not fully consolidated multiparty democracy of Ghana. Results from a randomized field experiment are used to investigate the effectiveness of newly-introduced biometric identification machines in reducing election fraud in Ghana's December 2012 national elections. We uncover a non-random pattern to the frequent breakdowns of the equipment. In polling stations with a randomly assigned domestic election observer, machines were about 50 percent less likely to experience breakdown as they were in polling stations without observers. We also find that electoral competition in the parliamentary race is strongly associated with greater machine breakdown.

Machine malfunction in turn facilitated election fraud, including overvoting, registry discrepancies, and ballot stuffing, especially where election observers were not present. Our results substantiate that partisan competition may promote election fraud in a newly-established competitive democracy. They also show that domestic election observers improve election integrity through direct observation and also thanks to their second-order effects on election administration.

Recently discussed in The Monkey Cage.

Co-authored with Toke Aidt and Devesh Tiwari

Utilizing data on self-reported criminal charges lodged against candidates to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Lok Sabha, India's lower house of representatives, in this paper we study the patterns of criminal candidate selection in 2004 and 2009 by India's political parties. Indian political parties are more likely to select candidates charged with criminal wrongdoing when confronting greater electoral uncertainty and in parliamentary constituencies whose populations exhibit lower levels of literacy. We model these findings formally to interpret them and we discuss the mechanisms that might underlie the patterns we uncover.

Recently discussed in The Economist, in The Wall Street Journal (India Edition), and on the BBC India.