Direct Democracy, Postal Voting, and the Composition of Turnout
35 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2016 Last revised: 1 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 29, 2016
Electoral reforms that decrease the costs of political participation promise to reduce class biases in civic engagement. However, this could lower the quality of democracy as the less politically interested, knowledgeable, and educated may also vote more frequently. We exploit the sequential introduction of postal voting in Swiss cantons to analyze in detail how an exogenous decrease in voting costs affects the political and socio-demographic composition of turnout in direct legislation. We find that while postal voting mobilizes equally along many dimensions including individuals' political knowledge, employment status, and religious denomination, it more strongly activates partisans of left and centrist parties, less politically interested individuals, and high earners. However, these changes have only limited effects on the overall turnout composition and are unlikely to affect referendum outcomes. Our results alleviate concerns about the negative side effects of postal voting on the quality of collective choice in large electorates.
Keywords: Turnout, Political Participation, Referendums, Elections, Postal Voting, Democracy, Public Policy
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation