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Efficiency, Equity and Timing in Voting Mechanisms


  • Battaglini, Marco
  • Morton, Rebecca
  • Palfrey, Thomas R


We compare the behaviour of voters, depending on whether they operate under sequential and simultaneous voting rules, when voting is costly and information is incomplete. In many real political institutions, ranging from small committees to mass elections, voting is sequential, which allows some voters to know the choices of earlier voters. For a stylized model, we characterize the equilibria for this rule, and compare it to simultaneous voting, and show how these equilibria vary for different voting costs. This generates a variety of predictions about the relative efficiency and equity of these two systems, which we test using controlled laboratory experiments. Most of the qualitative predictions are supported by the data, but there are significant departures from the predicted equilibrium strategies, in both the sequential and simultaneous voting games. We find a tradeoff between information aggregation, efficiency, and equity in sequential voting: a sequential voting rule aggregates information better, and produces more efficient outcomes on average, compared to simultaneous voting, but sequential voting leads to significant inequities, with later voters benefiting at the expense of early voters.

Suggested Citation

  • Battaglini, Marco & Morton, Rebecca & Palfrey, Thomas R, 2005. "Efficiency, Equity and Timing in Voting Mechanisms," CEPR Discussion Papers 5291, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5291

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eddie Dekel & Michele Piccione, 2000. "Sequential Voting Procedures in Symmetric Binary Elections," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(1), pages 34-55, February.
    2. Angela A. Hung & Charles R. Plott, 2001. "Information Cascades: Replication and an Extension to Majority Rule and Conformity-Rewarding Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1508-1520, December.
    3. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1029-1058, September.
    4. Tilman Borgers, 2004. "Costly Voting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 57-66, March.
    5. Eddie Dekel & Michele Piccione, 1997. "On the Equivalence of Simultaneous and Sequential Binary Elections," Discussion Papers 1206, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    6. Steven Callander, 2007. "Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 653-684.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:01:p:51-63_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Battaglini, Marco, 2005. "Sequential voting with abstention," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 445-463, May.
    9. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:93:y:1999:i:01:p:51-67_21 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Krasa, Stefan & Polborn, Mattias K., 2009. "Is mandatory voting better than voluntary voting?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 275-291, May.
    12. Rothenberg, Lawrence S & Sanders, Mitchell S, 2000. "Legislator Turnout and the Calculus of Voting: The Determinants of Abstention in the U.S. Congress," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(3-4), pages 259-270, June.
    13. Gerardi, Dino & Yariv, Leeat, 2007. "Deliberative voting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 317-338, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2010. "Expenditures and Information Disclosure in Two-Stage Political Contests," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(5), pages 771-798, October.
    2. Marco Battaglini & Rebecca B. Morton & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2010. "The Swing Voter's Curse in the Laboratory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 61-89.
    3. Chia-Hui Chen & Junichiro Ishida, 2011. "Seeking Harmony Amidst Diversity: Consensus Building with Network Externalities," ISER Discussion Paper 0826, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    4. Kwiek, Maksymilian, 2014. "Conclave," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 258-275.
    5. Rebecca B. Morton & Marco Piovesan & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2012. "The Dark Side of the Vote: Biased Voters, Social Information, and Information Aggregation Through Majority Voting," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-017, Harvard Business School.
    6. Arnaud Dellis & Sean D’Evelyn & Katerina Sherstyuk, 2011. "Multiple votes, ballot truncation and the two-party system: an experiment," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37(2), pages 171-200, July.
    7. Hummel, Patrick, 2012. "Sequential voting in large elections with multiple candidates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 341-348.
    8. Hummel, Patrick & Holden, Richard, 2014. "Optimal primaries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 64-75.
    9. Iaryczower, Matias, 2007. "Strategic voting in sequential committees," Working Papers 1275, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    10. Raphael Godefroy & Eduardo Perez‐Richet, 2013. "Choosing Choices: Agenda Selection With Uncertain Issues," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 221-253, January.
    11. Alpern, Steve & Chen, Bo, 2017. "The importance of voting order for jury decisions by sequential majority voting," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(3), pages 1072-1081.
    12. Brian Knight & Nathan Schiff, 2010. "Momentum and Social Learning in Presidential Primaries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1110-1150.
    13. Morton, Rebecca B. & Muller, Daniel & Page, Lionel & Torgler, Benno, 2015. "Exit polls, turnout, and bandwagon voting: Evidence from a natural experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 65-81.
    14. Zeynep B. Irfanoglu & Shakun D. Mago & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "The New Hampshire Effect: Behavior in Sequential and Simultaneous Election Contests," Working Papers 14-15, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    15. Irfanoglu, Zeynep & Mago, Shakun & Sheremeta, Roman, 2015. "New Hampshire Effect: Behavior in Sequential and Simultaneous Election Contests," MPRA Paper 67520, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Esteban F. Klory & Eyal Winter, 2006. "On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000451, David K. Levine.
    17. Morton, Rebecca B. & Ou, Kai, 2015. "What motivates bandwagon voting behavior: Altruism or a desire to win?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 224-241.
    18. Cesar Martinelli & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2017. "Communication and Information in Games of Collective Decision: A Survey of Experimental Results," Working Papers 1065, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    19. Dino Gerardi & Margaret A. McConnell & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2016. "Get Out The (Costly) Vote: Institutional Design For Greater Participation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1963-1979, October.
    20. Francesco De Sinopoli & Giovanna Iannantuoni & Maria Vittoria Levati & Ivan Soraperra, 2016. "Electing a parliament: an experimental study," Working Papers 11/2016, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    21. Bannikova, Marina & Giménez Gómez, José M. (José Manuel), 2015. "Gathering support from rivals: the two agent case with random order," Working Papers 2072/260957, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    committees; costly voting; information aggregation; sequential voting;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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