Research has highlighted the role of the state in sustaining authoritarian regimes. But how does state capacity support autocrats during elections? The author argues that one specific aspect of state capacity – control over territory through the state apparatus – helps autocrats ensure large majority electoral victories. High-capacity rulers can rely on local agents and institutions to subtly manipulate elections, for instance by controlling the media or inhibiting the work of domestic election monitors throughout the territory while staying clear of costly manipulation such as election violence. In cross-national analyses of authoritarian multiparty elections from 1946 to 2017, the study finds that state territorial control increases the likelihood of large victories. Furthermore, high levels of state control correlate with subtle strategies of manipulation, including media bias and restrictions on domestic monitors – strategies that are also positively associated with large victories. At the same time, state control is negatively associated with election violence.