State Capacity in Crisis Conditions: Preliminary Survey Results of Ukraine’s Election Administration

Erik S. Herron
Eberly Family Professor of Political Science
Department of Political Science
John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics
West Virginia University
316 Woodburn Hall, PO Box 6317
Morgantown, WV 26506


Nazar Boyko
CIFRA Group, L’viv, Ukraine


The authors thank Andriy Magera of Ukraine’s Central Electoral Commission for access to personnel data and the CEC for support in conducting the personnel surveys, and IFES for technical assistance in developing the surveys and permission to interview subjects at IFES
sessions. The DEC survey received financial support from PACT/UNITER/USAID. The PEC surveys were supported by a National Science Foundation RAPID grant (SES-1462110). All three surveys were conducted in cooperation with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. The opinions expressed in the paper are the authors’ alone and do not reflect those of other individuals or organizations.

The proper administration of elections is an essential function of all democratic societies and is a basic indicator of democratic state capacity. Impediments to free and fair elections, especially those introduced procedurally, undermine confidence in the legitimacy of election winners and their ability to govern effectively. When state sovereignty is threatened by violent conflict, the conduct of credible elections and maintenance of legitimacy is an even more acute challenge. This paper explores how institutional, temporal, spatial, and partisan factors are associated withvariation in civil servant1 perceptions of the state’s ability to successfully conduct elections. Our analysis relies largely on data from three surveys of appointed civil servants at the district and precinct levels of election administration in Ukraine. This unique set of surveys was conducted during the snap parliamentary elections held in late October 2014, during an intense period of civil conflict. Respondents, all of whom were temporary civil servants selected to manage election processes, answered questions about preparation, training, security, compensation, partisanship, and perceptions of election integrity. The survey results permit us to evaluate state capacity through the lens of bureaucratic attitudes and behaviors. While the current analysis is primarily descriptive, it provides preliminary insights into state management of elections under crisis conditions.
The paper proceeds in four parts. First, we present the context of Ukraine’s 2014 snap parliamentary elections, noting how Ukraine’s election administration apparatus is organized. Second, we outline the literature related to election administration, describe our theoretical expectations, and clarify the hypotheses that we evaluate in the paper. Third, we describe the data used in this paper, primarily surveys of election administrators. Fourth, we assess our hypotheses using survey data and discuss the implications. We conclude with a discussion of our future research agenda to extend the findings in this paper.


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