Working paper

Information Versus Control: The Electoral Consequences of Polling Place Creation

Jeremy Bowles, Horacio Larreguy, and Anders Woller


We examine the incentives incumbents face when creating new polling places. First, doing so improves incumbents’ ability to monitor brokers and voters by reducing the number of registered voters per polling station. Second, it reduces the distance traveled by citizens to vote, which undercuts incumbents’ ability to control the electorate via turnout buying. We evaluate this trade-off in the context of Uganda, where the incumbent significantly influences electoral administration. Drawing on rich administrative data, we leverage discontinuities in the creation of polling places to causally identify the independent effects of the number of voters per polling station and distance to vote on electoral outcomes. We find that decreasing improves incumbent electoral outcomes, while reducing worsens them. The benefits for incumbent outweigh the costs, which rationalizes recent developments to expand polling infrastructure in Uganda and elsewhere.


electoral administration manipulation, turnout buying;

See also

Published in

IAST working paper, n. 20-113, September 2020