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A rigged election can be understood as one that departs from the set of principles or characteristics that constitute an ideal election. Because there is no definitive consensus about what constitutes an ideal election, the concept of election rigging does not have sharp boundaries, and there is room for disagreement, especially at the margins. The following set of principles captures prominent ideas in scholarship on democracy and in the practice of democracy promotion about what constitutes an ideal election (see, e.g., Bjornlund, 2004; Dahl, 1971; Schedler, 2002):

  • Universal franchise
  • Insulation of the voter and the vote from bribery, coercion, or violence
  • Equal weighting of the votes (“one person, one vote”)
  • Honest counting of the votes
  • Unrestricted (or broad enough) choice of candidates
  • Availability of plural and public sources of information ...
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