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Bringing the ballot box to the people: Election administration and the origins of inclusive voting practices

Kevin Pallister, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Countries holding competitive elections vary in the extent to which the administrative practices surrounding the voting process facilitate or impede voter participation. Differences in the requirements for voter registration, the distances voters must travel to reach a polling place, the mechanics of casting a ballot, and the provision of voter education, among other factors, pose varying obstacles to participation. This variation poses a puzzle that this dissertation addresses: Why do some democracies adopt election administration practices that lower barriers to voter participation, while others adopt practices that raise prohibitive obstacles to the participation of at least some citizens? More simply, why is it easier to vote in some democracies than in others? This dissertation develops the concept of election administration inclusiveness, consisting of numerous administrative and procedural factors that affect voter access to the ballot. To develop a theory of why election administration inclusiveness varies across countries and over time, the project undertakes an in-depth comparison of three country cases: Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The case studies document and explain the origins of striking differences in election administration inclusiveness across the three countries in their early years of democratic transition, as well as variation in inclusiveness within each case over time. The case studies draw on elite interviews and archival research carried out by the author in each country. The study identifies a number of factors that influence the choice of election administration practices that bear on voter access to the ballot box. Of particular significance are historical legacies of election fraud, patterns of partisan identification among voters, the composition of electoral commissions that conduct elections, and international political pressures.^

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

Pallister, Kevin, "Bringing the ballot box to the people: Election administration and the origins of inclusive voting practices" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3603131.