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Invalid Ballots and Electoral Competition

  • Gani Aldashev
  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

We study how the closeness of electoral race affect the number of invalid ballots under the traditional paper-ballot voting technology. Using a large dataset from the Italian parliamentary elections in 1994-2001, we find a strong positive correlation between the closeness of electoral race and the fraction of invalid ballots. This correlation is not driven by voters' behavior, the biased actions of election officers, or the strategic pressure by parties. The theory that garners most support is that of unbiased election officers that increase their effort in response to higher (expected) closeness of electoral race, so as to reduce the likelihood of incorrectly adjudicating the victory. We also find large North-South differences in the patterns of invalid ballots: (i) electoral districts and municipalities in Southern Italian regions have a substantially higher level of invalid ballots, and (ii) the correlation between the closeness of electoral race and the fraction of invalid ballots is absent in the South. Social capital and organized crime explain these differences: once these two features are accounted for, the districts and municipalities in the South behave similarly to those in the North.

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Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 153.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:153
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  1. Kelly Shue & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2006. "Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 12709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David Card & Enrico Moretti, 2005. "Does Voting Technology Affect Election Outcomes? Touch-screen Voting and the 2004 Presidential Election," NBER Working Papers 11309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, November.
  4. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
  5. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Technology and Voter Intent: Evidence from the California Recall Election," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 674-683, November.
  6. Knack, Stephen & Kropf, Martha, 2003. "Voided Ballot in the 1996 Presidential Election: A County-Level Analysis," MPRA Paper 24895, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2008. "Land and Power: Theory and Evidence from Chile," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1737-65, December.
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