Open or Closed? How List Type Affects Electoral Performance, Candidate Selection, and Campaign Effort
VATT Institute for Economic Research Working Papers 120, 2019
63 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2019 Last revised: 25 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 12, 2019
What effect does using open (as opposed to closed) lists in proportional representation elections have on party performance and the quality of candidate selection? We provide novel evidence by studying local elections in Colombia, where parties have discretion to field either open or closed lists. Using panel data covering the 1,100 Colombian municipalities for the 2003–2015 period, we leverage within-party, within-municipality, and over-time variation to identify the effect of ballot structure. We find that the adoption of open list dramatically increases parties’ vote and seat shares. Semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of candidates reveal that parties that use closed list struggle to attract high-quality candidates and to incentivize them to campaign. Consistent with these mechanisms, our statistical analyses confirm that open-list candidates are more experienced, more engaged in their constituencies and campaigns, and less likely to have committed election fraud in the past.
Keywords: Electoral Systems, Ballot Structure, Closed vs Open Party List, Political Selection
JEL Classification: C23, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation