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Event report “Seminars on Election Forensics”

Waseda Top Global University Project’s Center for the Positive/Empirical Analysis of Political Economy welcomed Dr. Momar Dieng from Senegal. He is a mathematician, development practitioner, and election forensics expert, and he regularly lectures on quantitative tools for economics and public policy at Harvard University. In two seminars, co-hosted by TGU and Waseda University’s Organization for Regional and Inter-regional Studies (ORIS), Dr. Dieng explained the “tool-kit” for election forensics and demonstrated the application of these tools in an analysis of Senegalese presidential elections. These two seminars gave participants a behind-the-scenes introduction to election forensics and highlighted how academic researchers supplement the work of practitioners.

Dr. Dieng participated in three events during his visit to Waseda University in October of 2018: (1) he served as a discussant at the 4th Waseda ORIS International Symposium for Junior Researchers on October 1st (2) he led an SGU Seminar on Quantitative Tools (co-hosted by ORIS), titled “Statistical Methods Practicum on Election Forensics” on October 3rd, and (3) he was the featured speaker at the 38th ORIS Seminar (co-hosted by TGU), titled “Power in Numbers: Quantitative Methods for Monitoring Electoral Integrity” on October 4th.

Statistical Methods Practicum on Election Forensics

This five-hour long, hands-on workshop on various statistical methods provided an excellent opportunity for participants to learn and practice using the “tool-kit” of election forensics. First, Dr. Dieng taught participants how to “clean” data using the Awk programming language. As he explained, one of the most challenging steps in analyzing electoral data often is extracting data from PDF files into an analyzable format. It is also a skill that can be used in contexts other than election forensics. Second, Dr. Dieng demonstrated how to investigate elections using Stata statistical software with digit tests, analysis of the share of votes, and the methods of ecological inference. There were more than 10 participants, including graduate students from political science and economics, as well as other students. Participants gave positive feedback, with one of the graduate students telling Dr. Dieng that the techniques he shared would definitely be useful in researching actual elections.

 

Power in Numbers: Quantitative Methods for Monitoring Electoral Integrity

In this research presentation, Dr. Dieng first explained the theory of election forensics and then showed how he applied it to the Senegalese presidential elections in 2000 and 2007. The lecture offered an intuitive understanding of election forensics, while also presenting some of the technical details. Dr. Dieng’s presentation also touched on the role of electoral fraud in Senegalese politics, and its implications for the upcoming 2019 Senegalese presidential election. The audience raised many insightful questions in the Q&A session related to the theory of election forensics and to the prospects for avoiding fraudulent elections in the future. Also, in response to a question about the applicability of the techniques to non-electoral settings, Dr. Dieng answered that the same technics can be used to test the reliability of various types of data, including household data collected by development agencies, for example. What began as a technical research presentation, concluded with a discussion of African society and politics. On both themes, Dr. Dieng offered unique insight for Waseda students, faculty and staff in attendance.

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