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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.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5291.

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Date of creation: Oct 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5291
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  1. 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.
  2. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections With Private Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1560, David K. Levine.
  3. Steven Callander, 2007. "Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 653-684.
  4. Dekel, E. & Piccione, M., 1999. "Sequential Voting Procedures in Symmetric Binary Elections," Papers 3-99, Tel Aviv.
  5. Tilman Börgers, 2001. "Costly Voting," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 625018000000000232, www.najecon.org.
  6. Battaglini, Marco, 2005. "Sequential voting with abstention," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 445-463, May.
  7. 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 259-70, June.
  8. Gerardi, Dino & Yariv, Leeat, 2007. "Deliberative voting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 317-338, May.
  9. 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.
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