, Volume 129, Issue 1-2, pp 61-75
Date: 23 May 2006

Is compulsory voting more democratic?

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Abstract

Lijphart (1997) endorses compulsory voting as a means to increase voter turnout. Considering the likely effects of the role of information (including its costs) on the decision to vote and taking an expressive view of voting, however, compels us to investigate two unexamined claims by such advocates: (i) that individuals are transformed by forcing them to vote, and (ii) that a compulsory electoral outcome is a more accurate reflection of community preferences.We argue that compelling those who are not particularly interested in, or informed about, the political process to vote increases the proportion of random votes and we show that under simple majority rule, compulsory voting may violate the Pareto principle; the less popular candidate is more likely to be elected. Our results cast doubt on the ”miracle of aggregation“ argument, which optimistically concludes that as long as uninformed votes are not systematically biased, they will have no effect on voting outcomes. We also briefly consider how information cascades can exacerbate this problem.