Observing Elite Support for Democracy: The Prison Vote in Poland and Ukraine
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2020
- pp. 487-516
- Additional Information
Adding new groups of voters should indicate a country's move toward greater democracy. In this article, we turn that question on its head: could the addition of new voters be used to undermine rather than expand democracy? To answer this question, we examine the decision to grant prisoners the right to vote. We argue that the prison vote can be used as an indicator of regime willingness to play by the rules of the game–or not. This makes the prison vote a good barometer of elite support for democracy at a given moment and a subtle gauge of democratization and electoral integrity over time. Support comes from a qualitative study of prisoner enfranchisement in Poland and Ukraine and a comparative analysis of voting in legislative elections in all prisons in Poland (2005-2015) and Ukraine (2002-2014). Results from precinct-level voting in Poland and Ukraine show marked differences between these countries in the outcome of the prison vote.