No Surprises, Please: Voting Costs and Electoral Turnout
62 Pages Posted: 26 May 2022
Date Written: 2022
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: Suggested Citation