Unpacking the Definition of Electoral Corruption

Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa’s latest publication zeroes in on the nature of electoral corruption and its various forms. Read on and get enlightened.

Despite its common usage, the phrase electoral corruption is defined differently by different authors. As a result, widely varying definitions exist. The Wikipedia (2022) uses terms such as electoral fraud, election manipulation, voter fraud, voter suppression or vote rigging.Birch (2011:2) calls it electoral malpractice, electoral misconduct, electoral malfeasance, electoral fraud and electoral manipulation. The Ballotpedia (2022) uses the term electoral fraud. Polyas (2022) calls it voter fraud, electoral fraud or vote rigging whilst the Thomson Reuters (2022) prefers to label it voter fraud and electoral fraud.

As alluded to above, these terms stir confusion and hence this review discusses a larger number of historical works that discuss electoral corruption. Its conclusions are threefold. First, it gives a wide range of definitions given by different authors. Second, it differentiates electoral corruption from a panoply of its common forms that are often confused as defining electoral corruption. Third, it offers a new or refined definition of electoral corruption to facilitate further dialogue on the same.

According to a definition provided by Ward (1949) in his paper on ‘Electoral Corruption and Controverted Elections’ the term electoral corruption refers to “…the giving and receiving of bribes whether money, employment, or anything else, the real or threatened use of violence, treating, personation and in some cases payment for the hauling of voters to the polls.” This definition takes the extensional route approach which defines electoral corruption by listing everything that falls under that definition such as bribing, use of violence and personation.

Read the full publication here (610KB PDF)

Source: ACT Southern Africa

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