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Voter Registration Costs and Disenfranchisement: Experimental Evidence from France




A large-scale randomized experiment conducted during the 2012 French presidential and parliamentary elections shows that voter registration requirements have significant effects on turnout, resulting in unequal participation. We assigned 20,500 apartments to one control or six treatment groups that received canvassing visits providing either information about registration or help to register at home. While both types of visits increased registration, home registration visits had a higher impact than information-only visits, indicating that both information costs and administrative barriers impede registration. Home registration did not reduce turnout among those who would have registered anyway. On the contrary, citizens registered due to the visits became more interested in and knowledgeable about the elections as a result of being able to participate in them, and 93% voted at least once in 2012. The results suggest that easing registration requirements could substantially enhance political participation and interest while improving representation of all groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Braconnier, Cã‰Line & Dormagen, Jean-Yves & Pons, Vincent, 2017. "Voter Registration Costs and Disenfranchisement: Experimental Evidence from France," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 584-604, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:111:y:2017:i:03:p:584-604_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Godefroy, Raphael & Henry, Emeric, 2016. "Voter turnout and fiscal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 389-406.
    2. León, Gianmarco, 2017. "Turnout, political preferences and information: Experimental evidence from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 56-71.
    3. Alejandro Corvalan & Paulo Cox, 2014. "`Can I register to vote before I am 18?'Information Costs and Participation," Working Papers 60, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad Diego Portales.
    4. Yasmine Bekkouche & Julia Cage, 2018. "The Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993-2014," Working Papers Series 68, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    5. Alberto Chong & Gianmarco León‐Ciliotta & Vivian Roza & Martín Valdivia & Gabriela Vega, 2019. "Urbanization Patterns, Information Diffusion, and Female Voting in Rural Paraguay," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 63(2), pages 323-341, April.
    6. Vincent Pons & Vestal Mcintyre, 2020. "Ground work vs. social media: how to best reach voters in French municipal elections?," Post-Print halshs-02515651, HAL.
    7. Galasso, Vincenzo & Nannicini, Tommaso & Nunnari, Salvatore, 2020. "Positive Spillovers from Negative Campaigning," CEPR Discussion Papers 14312, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Vincenzo Galasso & Tommaso Nannicini, 2016. "Persuasion and Gender: Experimental Evidence from Two Political Campaigns," CESifo Working Paper Series 5868, CESifo.
    9. Pierre C. Boyer & Thomas Delemotte & Germain Gauthier & Vincent Rollet & Benoît Schmutz, 2020. "The Gilets Jaunes: Offline and Online," CESifo Working Paper Series 8326, CESifo.
    10. Yasmine Bekkouche & Julia Cage, 2019. "The Heterogeneous Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993-2014," Sciences Po publications 2019-09, Sciences Po.
    11. Enrico Cantoni & Vincent Pons, 2019. "Strict ID Laws Don’t Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008–2018," NBER Working Papers 25522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Vincent Pons & Vestal Mcintyre, 2020. "Ground work vs. social media: how to best reach voters in French municipal elections?," Institut des Politiques Publiques halshs-02515651, HAL.
    13. Alberto Chong & Gianmarco León & Vivian Roza & Martin Valdivia & Gabriela Vega, 2017. "Urbanization patterns, social interactions and female voting in rural Paraguay," Economics Working Papers 1589, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    14. Madsen, Jonas Krogh & Mikkelsen, Kim Sass & Moynihan, Donald, 2020. "Burdens, Sludge, Ordeals, Red Tape, Oh My! A User’s Guide to the Study of Frictions," SocArXiv qfykb, Center for Open Science.
    15. J. Andrew Harris & Catherine Kamindo & Peter van der Windt, 2020. "Electoral Administration in Fledgling Democracies:Experimental Evidence from Kenya," Working Papers 20200036, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Jan 2020.
    16. Bhatt, Rachana & Dechter, Evgenia & Holden, Richard, 2020. "Registration costs and voter turnout," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 91-104.

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