Beliefs about Ballot Monitoring in Latin America
37 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2014
The emergence of the Australian ballot is an important democratic development because it encourages sincere voting. When ballots are secret, voters can avoid potential social, economic, and physical sanctions for voting for the “wrong candidate.” While ballot secrecy is the norm in most advanced democracies as well as many new democracies, the threat of monitoring of vote choices remains if citizens believe that their ballot decisions can be monitored, even if parties and candidates cannot actually determine individual vote choices. This is particularly troubling in many new democracies in which vote buying and electoral intimidation are common, since enforcement of such exchanges hinges on whether citizens believe that their voting behavior can be monitored. While perceptions of ballot secrecy are central to models of vote buying and intimidation, studies of such perceptions are nearly non-existent outside of advanced democracies. In this study, we analyze original survey data on perceptions of ballot monitoring conducted after 14 elections in 10 Latin America countries from 2008-2014. We find significant variance in beliefs about ballot secrecy, and substantial minorities (and in one country, a majority) expressed doubts about ballot secrecy in nearly all the studies. While the individual level predictors of monitoring perceptions vary across the cases, experience with vote buying - through either receiving gifts or favors directly or witnessing such distribution in the neighborhood - is one of the most consistent predictors of monitoring perceptions. Further, in contrast to studies conducted in advanced democracies, voters, rather than abstainers, are more likely to believe that their vote choices can be monitored.
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