Skip to main content

Improving Electoral Integrity Through Information and Communications Technology: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial in Uganda

Fraud and irregularities plague elections in developing democracies. Over the past twenty-five years, the international community has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on election observation missions, but little robust evidence exists that they consistently increase electoral integrity. We conducted a randomized controlled trial to detect and deter electoral irregularities employing a nation-wide sample of polling stations in Uganda and using scalable information and communications technology (ICT). In treatment stations, researchers delivered letters to polling center managers stating that their tallies would be photographed using smartphones and compared against official results. Compared to control stations with no letters, the letters (i) increased the frequency of posted tallies by polling center manager in compliance with the electoral law; (ii) decreased the number of sequential digits found on tallies -- a fraud indicator; and (iii) decreased the vote share for incumbent President Museveni, the incumbent candidate most likely to benefit from rigging. Our results demonstrate the possibility that a cost-effective citizen and ICT-based intervention can improve electoral integrity in emerging democracies.