Election fraud is a pervasive feature of autocracies but often only serves lower-tier officials to cast signals of loyalty or competence to the central government in order to pursue their own interests. How much such personal interests matter for electoral fraud under autocracy has however not been studied so far. In this paper, I exploit a radical policy change in Russia which allowed the president to replace governors of the country’s 89 regions at his own will. As a result, federal elections after December 2004 were organised by two types of governors: one was handpicked by the president, the other one elected before the law change and re-appointed. Even though both types faced removal in case of bad results, the need to signal loyalty was much lower for the first type. In order to estimate the effect of handpicked governors on electoral fraud, I use a diff-in-diff framework over 7 federal elections between 2000 and 2012. For this time period, I use results from about 95,000 voting stations to construct a new indicator of suspicious votes for each region and election. I show that this indicator correlates strongly with incidents of reported fraud. My baseline estimates show that in territories with a handpicked governor the share of suspicious votes decreased on average by more than 10 percentage points and dropped even further if the region’s economy had done well over the past legislature. These findings suggest that governors have less need to use rigging as a signal once loyalty is assured unless faced with circumstances raising doubts about their competence.