Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Intervention, Dov H. Levin

Reviewed by Robert Y. Shapiro



Meddling in the Ballot Box would be of great interest if only for Dov H. Levin’s analysis of the effects of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election (which is the reason I was interested in reading and reviewing the book after hearing Levin give an excellent talk on it). But the book is much more. It is a broader study—and deservedly so—of the causes and effects of foreign electoral intervention in which the 2016 election can be treated as the latest case outside of Levin’s original sampling of foreign interventions. Moreover, it is good social science in that it empirically examines a soft rational choice theory explanation—though he does not refer to it as “rational choice”—of the causes of and prospects for success of world powers’ efforts to influence election results in other countries. Such attempts have occurred a significant number of times—these are hardly rare and unimportant events. Levin has written a terrific book based on a major and important research project.

To start, it is easy to see how the benefits/costs trade-offs that Levin emphasizes—which include the benefits of avoiding losses—play out in his argument regarding the decision of major powers to interfere in elections. He posits th

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