Compulsory Voting and Income Inequality: Evidence for Lijphart’s Proposition from Venezuela
Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 122-144, Summer 2017
35 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2014 Last revised: 26 Aug 2017
Date Written: January 15, 2017
What difference does it make if the state makes people vote? The question is central to normative debates about the rights and duties of citizens in a democracy, and to contemporary policy debates in a number of Latin American countries over what actions states should take to encourage electoral participation. By focusing on a rare case of abolishing compulsory voting in Venezuela, we show that not forcing people to vote yielded a more unequal distribution of income. Our evidence supports Arend Lijphart’s claim, advanced in his 1996 presidential address to the American Political Science Association, that compulsory voting can offset class bias in turnout and, in turn, contribute to the equality of influence.
Keywords: compulsory voting, income inequality, turnout, electoral participation, Venezuela
JEL Classification: D72, D31, N36, N46
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