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The toll of voting in a pandemic: Municipal elections and the spread of COVID-19 in Bavaria


  • Jochen Güntner


Elections may take place in precarious environments that even pose health risks. I consider the case of Bavaria, where close to ten million people were asked to vote in the municipal elections on March 15 of 2020, to quantify the toll of elections in a pandemic. Despite declaring a state of emergency on the very next day, two weeks later, Bavaria had left behind any other German state in terms of COVID-19 infections and deaths per capita. Using district-level health, demographic, and economic data, I find that at least 3,700 or 15% of the cumulative increase in positive test results between March 15 and April 4 are explained by a dummy variable for Bavaria. Across Bavarian districts, a 1% increase in voter participation is associated with an additional 13.6 positive tests and 1.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants over the following three weeks.

Suggested Citation

  • Jochen Güntner, 2020. "The toll of voting in a pandemic: Municipal elections and the spread of COVID-19 in Bavaria," Economics working papers 2020-15, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2020-15
    Note: English

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Marco Frank & David Stadelmann & Benno Torgler, 2020. "Electoral Turnout During States of Emergency and Effects on Incumbent Vote Share," CREMA Working Paper Series 2020-10, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    6. Chad Cotti & Bryan Engelhardt & Joshua Foster & Erik Nesson & Paul Niekamp, 2021. "The relationship between in‐person voting and COVID‐19: Evidence from the Wisconsin primary," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(4), pages 760-777, October.
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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Politics

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; municipal elections; pandemic; synthetic control method;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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