Incumbents have many tools to tip elections in their favor, yet little is known about how they choose between strategies. By comparing various tactics, this article argues that electoral malpractice centered on manipulating institutions offers the greatest effectiveness while shielding incumbents from public anger and criminal prosecution. To demonstrate this, the study focuses on a widespread institutional tactic: preventing candidates from accessing the ballot. First, in survey experiments, Russian voters respond less negatively to institutional manipulations, such as rejecting candidates, than to blatant fraud, such as ballot box stuffing. Next, using evidence from 25,935 Russian mayoral races, the article shows that lower societal and implementation costs enable incumbents to strategically reject candidacies from credible challengers and then reduce their electoral vulnerability. In all, the technology behind specific manipulations helps determine when and how incumbents violate electoral integrity.