The Quality of Vote Tallies: Causes and Consequences
Simpser Alberto (ITAM)
ChallĂș Cristian (ITAM)
Seira Enrique (ITAM)

Abstract : Virtually all theoretical work on elections and collective choice assumes that votes are either tallied perfectly, or that deviations from the truth stem from partisan fraud. However, in large electorates where votes are tallied by hand, as in most modern democracies, the accuracy of vote totals cannot be guaranteed even in the absence of fraud. We provide the first systematic evidence about the incidence, causes, and consequences of inaccuracies in poll-booth-level vote tallies. Using data for the universe of over seventy million voters in Mexico in five national elections, we exploit various procedural randomizations and rule-based discontinuities to show that the human capital of poll booth officials, tallying difficulty, and workload are major causal drivers of tallying inaccuracies. We find no evidence that tallying inaccuracies reflect partisan manipulation or fraud. Nevertheless, inaccuracies are strongly correlated with subsequent recounts, and in tight races they can change who wins. Even nonpartisan tallying inaccuracies, therefore, threaten public trust in election results and confidence in electoral institutions. Our findings highlight an unrecognized challenge to the practice of democracy and collective choice.

Locational Fundamentals, Trade, and the Changing Urban Landscape of Mexico
Jennifer Alix-Garcia (Oregon State University)
Emily A. Sellars (Texas A&M University)

Abstract : Where do cities emerge and evolve? We examine persistence and change in the distribution of Mexico's urban population from the colonial era to the present, with emphasis on the country's 20th-century transformation. We demonstrate that while early trade patterns and historical persistence were instrumental in sowing the seeds of Mexico's contemporary city system, both technological change and policy significantly altered the trajectory of urbanization. The relative importance of locational fundamentals decreases over time, while the influence of international trade access increases, highlighting that political and economic decision-making shape the importance of geography for development. The findings suggest that although geographic advantage plays an important role in initial city emergence, geography is not destiny in urbanization.

The Tocqueville Paradox: when Does Reform Provoke Rebellion?
Evgeny Finkel (George Washington University)
Scott Gehlbach (University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Abstract : We analyze a model of reform and rebellion to explore Alexis de Tocqueville's conjecture that reform provokes political unrest. Our theory emphasizes the role of reform in determining expressive motivations to rebel through two forms of reference dependence: reform reduces grievances to the extent that its implementation improves on the status quo, but it also raises expectations that contribute to grievances when reform is implemented by local agents with a stake in the status quo. When reform is predominantly locally implemented and state capacity is weak, a more ambitious reform leads to greater concessions by local elites; nonetheless, the equilibrium probability of rebellion also increases. This tradeoff is robust to assuming that citizens are motivated by instrumental as well as expressive concerns and to the presence of strategic complementarities across localities. We illustrate our results with a discussion of Russia's Emancipation Reform of 1861.