“Gifts, Threats, and Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy in African Elections”

Karen E. Ferree (UC San Diego) and James D. Long (University of Washington)
African Affairs 115(461): 621-645

Are contingent electoral strategies, like vote buying and intimidation, effective in Africa? Recent Afrobarometer data show that nearly one in four Africans doubt ballot secrecy. Drawing upon Afrobarometer data and an original exit poll conducted during the 2008 Ghanaian election, we show that doubts about ballot secrecy correlate with vote buying, intimidation efforts, and measures of campaign intensity, suggesting that they are a deliberate product of party efforts. African parties can and do convince voters that their vote choices are known, particularly in urban areas where party capacity and community accessibility are highest. Doubts about ballot secrecy enable both vote buying and voter intimidation strategies, and suggest that formal rules enshrining the secret ballot offer insufficient protection to African voters.

I provided substantive editing for the authors who were revising and resubmitting their manuscript to African Affairs. The full article (gated copy) is available here.