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How quorum rules distort referendum outcomes: evidence from a pivotal voter model

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  • Luís Francisco Aguiar

    ()
    (Universidade do Minho - NIPE)

  • Pedro C. Magalhães

    ()
    (University of Lisbon, Social Sciences Institute)

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    Abstract

    In many jurisdictions, whether referendum results are binding depend on certain legally defined quorum requirements. With a pivotal-voter model, we examine how quorum requirements affect voter’s behavior. We conclude that quorums can be the cause of lower turnout and that they can deliver outcomes that are an inadequate basis to make inferences about collective preferences. We further conclude that quorums may help minorities to impose their will on majorities and that they may create a bias against the status quo. Finally, they generate situations under which the secrecy of the vote is called into question.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by NIPE - Universidade do Minho in its series NIPE Working Papers with number 17/2009.

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    Date of creation: 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:nip:nipewp:17/2009

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    1. Noam, Eli M, 1980. "The Efficiency of Direct Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(4), pages 803-10, August.
    2. Colin M. Campbell, 1999. "Large Electorates and Decisive Minorities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1199-1217, December.
    3. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
    4. Amrita Dhillon & Susana Peralta, 2002. "Economic Theories Of Voter Turnout," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(480), pages F332-F352, June.
    5. Luís Aguiar-Conraria & Pedro C. Magalhães, 2008. "Referendum Design, Quorum Rules and Turnout," NIPE Working Papers 05/2008, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 246, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
    8. Matsusaka, John G, 1992. "Economics of Direct Legislation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 541-71, May.
    9. Helios Herrera & Andrea Mattozzi, 2010. "Quorum and Turnout in Referenda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 838-871, 06.
    10. Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Are Voters Better Informed When They Have a Larger Say in Politics? -- Evidence for the European Union and Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 119(1_2), pages 31-59, 04.
    11. Coate, Stephen & Conlin, Michael & Moro, Andrea, 2008. "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 582-596, April.
    12. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
    13. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct Democracy: Politico-economic Lessons from Swiss Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 338-42, May.
    14. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
    15. Sharon Megdal, 1983. "The determination of local public expenditures and the principal and agent relation: A case study," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 71-87, January.
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