Experimental evidence that quorum rules discourage turnout and promote election boycotts
Many democratic decision making institutions involve quorum rules. Such rules are commonly motivated by concerns about the “legitimacy” or “representativeness” of decisions reached when only a subset of eligible voters participates. A prominent example of this can be found in the context of direct democracy mechanisms, such as referenda and initiatives. We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the consequences of the two most common types of quorum rules: a participation quorum and an approval quorum. We find that both types of quora lead to lower participation rates, dramatically increasing the likelihood of full-fledged electoral boycotts on the part of those who endorse the Status Quo. This discouraging effect is significantly larger under a participation quorum than under an approval quorum.