Abstract: Elections occur more frequently and in more countries throughout the developing world than at any time since 1945. Yet, the impact of these elections on the extent and quality of future democracy is smaller today than in earlier periods. This project seeks to explain this diminishing utility of elections. Our theoretical framework identifies three factors that constrain the democratic utility of elections: limited fiscal space of the states holding elections, the legacy of violent conflict, and increased international intervention. We test our hypotheses using cross-national time-series data for all developing countries since 1945. Our findings have considerable import for democracy promotion policy.