Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Case for Nil Votes: Voter Behavior Under Asymmetric Information in Compulsory and Voluntary Voting Systems

66 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2015  

Attila Ambrus

Duke University - Department of Economics

Ben Greiner

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics

Anne Sastro

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Date Written: December 2, 2015

Abstract

We experimentally study the impact of adding an explicit nil vote option to the ballot in both compulsory and voluntary voting settings. We investigate this issue in an informational voting setting, in which some voters are uninformed and face the swing voter’s curse, implying that they can only affect the expected election outcome adversely. We generate predictions using a simple model of strategic voting in which some voters receive a psychological benefit (along the lines of Riker and Ordeshook (1968)) from choosing an action that they consider a legitimate participation in the election. We test our model in a double-blind pen-and-paper laboratory experiment, and find that the main comparative predictions of the model hold in the data, particularly strongly for compulsory voting. In particular, both under compulsory and voluntary voting, introducing a nil vote option reduces the number of uninformed voters casting a vote for a candidate, increasing voters’ expected welfare. Additionally, it eradicates strategic invalid votes under compulsory voting.

Keywords: information aggregation in elections, nil vote option, voluntary and compulsory voting

JEL Classification: C92, D72, D82

Suggested Citation

Ambrus, Attila and Greiner, Ben and Sastro, Anne, The Case for Nil Votes: Voter Behavior Under Asymmetric Information in Compulsory and Voluntary Voting Systems (December 2, 2015). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 199. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2699333

Attila Ambrus (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Ben Greiner

UNSW Australia Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Anne Sastro

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Paper statistics

Downloads
40
Abstract Views
458