Electoral management, understood as the application and implementation of electoral rules, is a critical part of democratic governance. But there are often concerns about the quality of electoral management and the performance of electoral management bodies around the world. Despite recent advances, there remains a need for new systematic evidence on the quality of electoral management and analysis of the factors that lead to poorly- or well- run elections. This article therefore maps out global variations in the quality of the public management of elections using a new cross-national dataset and measure. It then explains variations by evaluating the relative importance of bureaucratic culture, the autonomy of electoral authorities, political polarisation in the electorate and the capacity of electoral management bodies. The results provide support for the importance of each of these factors. The effect of political polarisation is an important finding as it is a new threat to elections.