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The effect of electoral systems on voter turnout: evidence from a natural experiment

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  • Carlos Sanz

    (PRINCETON UNIVERSITY)

Abstract

I exploit the unique institutional framework of Spanish local elections, where municipalities follow different electoral systems depending on their population size, as mandated by a national law. Using a regression discontinuity design, I compare turnout under closed-list proportional representation and under an open-list, plurality-at-large system where voters can vote for individual candidates from the same or different party lists. I find that the openlist system increases turnout by between one and two percentage points. The results suggest that open-list systems, which introduce competition both across and within parties, are conducive to greater voter turnout.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlos Sanz, 2016. "The effect of electoral systems on voter turnout: evidence from a natural experiment," Working Papers 1623, Banco de España.
  • Handle: RePEc:bde:wpaper:1623
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    Cited by:

    1. Britto, Diogo G.C. & Fiorin, Stefano, 2020. "Corruption and legislature size: Evidence from Brazil," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    2. Thomas Fujiwara & Carlos Sanz, 2020. "Rank Effects in Bargaining: Evidence from Government Formation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 1261-1295.
    3. Kantorowicz, Jarosław, 2017. "Electoral systems and fiscal policy outcomes: Evidence from Poland," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 36-60.
    4. J. Stephen Ferris, 2020. "What happens when voting rules change? the case of New Zealand," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 31(3), pages 267-291, September.
    5. Martín Gonzalez-Eiras & Carlos Sanz, 2018. "Women’s representation in politics: voter bias, party bias, and electoral systems," Working Papers 1834, Banco de España.
    6. Lucardi, Adrián, 2019. "The Effect of District Magnitude on Electoral Outcomes: Evidence from Two Natural Experiments in Argentina," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(2), pages 557-577, April.
    7. Matakos, Konstantinos & Savolainen, Riikka & Troumpounis, Orestis & Tukiainen, Janne & Xefteris, Dimitrios, 2018. "Electoral Institutions and Intraparty Cohesion," Working Papers 109, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    8. Carlos Sanz, 2017. "Direct democracy and government size: evidence from Spain," Working Papers 1709, Banco de España.
    9. Thomas Fujiwara & Carlos Sanz, 2017. "Norms in bargaining: evidence from government formation in Spain," Working Papers 1741, Banco de España.
    10. Miguel Ángel Borrella-Mas & Martin Rode, 2021. "Love is blind: partisan alignment and political corruption in Spain," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 423-451, September.
    11. Hangartner, Dominik & Ruiz, Nelson A. & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Open or Closed? How List Type Affects Electoral Performance, Candidate Selection, and Campaign Effort," Working Papers 120, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    12. Gonzalez-Eiras, Martín & Sanz, Carlos, 2021. "Women’s representation in politics: The effect of electoral systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 198(C).
    13. Gary W. Cox & Jon H. Fiva & Daniel M. Smith & Rune J. Sørensen, 2020. "Moral Hazard in Electoral Teams," CESifo Working Paper Series 8357, CESifo.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    voter turnout; electoral system; open list; regression discontinuity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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