No Surprises, Please: Voting Costs and Electoral Turnout

62 Pages Posted: 26 May 2022

See all articles by JV Alipour

JV Alipour

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Valentin Lindlacher

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute

Date Written: 2022

Abstract

We study how seemingly benign changes to voting costs affect electoral turnout, exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the assignment of polling places in Munich (Germany). Using an event study design, we find that polling place relocations cause a persistent shift from in-person to mail-in voting and a transitory drop in overall turnout by 0.4–0.6 percentage points (0.7–1.0 percent). The findings are consistent with inattention to relocations, inducing some individuals to forgo voting today and turn to mail-in voting in ensuing elections. The drop in participation is stronger in precincts with a higher fraction of elderly voters and where reassignments caused a greater distance to the polling location, highlighting the importance of offering mail-in voting and informing citizens of reassignments to compensate for votes lost at the polls.

Keywords: voter turnout, habit formation, elections, election administration, precincts, polling places

JEL Classification: D720, D730, D830, R410

Suggested Citation

Alipour, Jean-Victor and Lindlacher, Valentin, No Surprises, Please: Voting Costs and Electoral Turnout (2022). CESifo Working Paper No. 9759, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4120151 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4120151

Jean-Victor Alipour (Contact Author)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Valentin Lindlacher

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, 01069
Germany

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