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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gani Aldashev & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2010. "Invalid Ballots and Electoral Competition," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 153, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  • Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:153

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kelly Shue & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2009. "Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 229-257, February.
    2. 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 1737-1765, December.
    3. 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.
    4. David Card & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Does Voting Technology Affect Election Outcomes? Touch-screen Voting and the 2004 Presidential Election," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 660-673, November.
    5. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
    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. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maria De Paola & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2012. "The Causal Impact Of Closeness On Electoral Participation Exploiting The Italian Dual Ballot System," Working Papers 201203, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza "Giovanni Anania" - DESF.

    More about this item


    invalid ballots; electoral competition; social capital; voting technology; Italian parliamentary elections;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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