Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions

Why do foreign powers sometimes try to determine who wins an election in another country? What effects does such meddling have on the targeted elections results? Great powers have tried for decades to intervene in elections occurring in other states through various covert and overt methods with the Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections being just one recent example. Indeed there has been such an American or Soviet/Russian intervention in one of every nine national-level executive elections between 1946 and 2000. Meddling in the Ballot Box is the first book to focus exclusively on this type of foreign meddling, analyzing both questions with an in-depth historical analysis of six actual and potential interventions combined with a statistical study of a first of its kind dataset of partisan electoral interventions and of election surveys.

Levin argues that partisan electoral interventions are usually an “inside job,” occurring only if a significant domestic actor within the target wants it. Likewise electoral interventions won’t happen unless the great power fears its interests are endangered by another significant party or candidate with very different and inflexible preferences. Moreover, partisan electoral interventions frequently have significant effects on the results, sufficient in many situations to determine the identity of its winner. Such interference also tends to be more effective when it is conducted overtly and is usually ineffective, if not counterproductive, when done in a founding election. The case of the Russian intervention in the 2016 US elections is also covered together with a discussion of the possible cyber-future of such meddling.

Dr. Dov H. Levin is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 2016-2018 he was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University.