Seminal studies show that naïve lab participants accurately predict who wins real-world elections based solely on candidate photos. It is unclear what this implies for the health of democracy without knowing whether candidates who look more electable or competent in photos behave more competently in office. Combining novel performance data with lab-in-the-field experiments, estimates show that voters can identify which politicians divert less public money and communicate more persuasively based solely on headshots. Such inferences do not predict politician effort visiting their home constituencies, but neither do other readily available metrics like professional qualifications. I run these experiments in a low income country where ballots include candidate photos and weak institutional checks raise the stakes for selecting innately competent leaders. The results provide an example of how voters’ use of heuristics need not harm democratic accountability, and can actually enhance it, given that these shortcuts identify traits associated with good governance.