Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Turnout
15 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2016 Last revised: 25 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 24, 2017
Voting models assume that voting costs impact turnout. As turnout declined across advanced democracies, governments cycled through reforms aiming to reduce costs to increase participation. Internet voting, used in elections across a dozen countries, promises to reduce voting costs dramatically. Yet, identifying its effect on turnout has proven difficult. We use original panel data of local elections in Ontario, Canada and fixed effects estimators. Results show internet voting can increase turnout by 3.5 pp with larger increases when vote by mail is not yet adopted, and greater use when registration is not required. Our estimates suggest that internet voting is unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis and implies that cost arguments do not fully account for recent turnout declines.
Keywords: Political behavior, internet voting, electoral reform, voter turnout
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