Public Choice

, Volume 159, Issue 1–2, pp 53–62 | Cite as

Participation quorums in costly meetings

  • Sabine Flamand
  • Orestis Troumpounis


Meetings of shareholders, societies, and clubs often require a minimal participation quorum. In the absence of a quorum, no valid decisions can be made; thus, decisions are postponed to a later meeting. This paper examines the effect of such quorum constraints on both individual behavior and collective outcomes in a model of costly meetings. We show that when a binding quorum constraint delivers an immediate decision, it also induces a welfare loss with respect to the outcome that prevails when no quorum applies, potentially including policy distortions. When the quorum requirement is high and causes the decision to be postponed, the number of participants in the (second) meeting may decrease with respect to the zero-quorum rule.


Quorum Costly meetings Committees Participation 

JEL Classification




We are very grateful to the editor, an associate editor, and two anonymous referees who provided many helpful comments. We would also like to thank Enriqueta Aragonès, Caterina Calsamiglia, Salvador Barberà, Helios Herrera, Humberto Llavador, Andrea Mattozzi, Clara Ponsatí, and Dimitrios Xefteris. All remaining errors are our own.


  1. Aguiar-Conraria, L., & Magalhães, P. (2010a). How quorum rules distort referendum outcomes: evidence from a pivotal voter model. European Journal of Political Economy, 26(4), 541–557. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aguiar-Conraria, L., & Magalhães, P. (2010b). Referendum design, quorum rules and turnout. Public Choice, 144(1), 63–81. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aragonès, E., & Sánchez-Páges, S. (2009). A theory of participatory democracy based on the real case of Porto Alegre. European Economic Review, 53(1), 56–72. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Besley, T., & Coate, S. (1997). An economic model of representative democracy. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(1), 85–114. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, D. (1958). The theory of committees and elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  6. Bulkley, G., Myles, G., & Pearson, B. (2001). On the membership of decision-making committees. Public Choice, 106(1), 1–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dornseifer, F. (2005). Corporate business forms in Europe: a compendium of public and private limited companies in Europe. Munich: Sellier European Law Publishers. Google Scholar
  8. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper & Row. Google Scholar
  9. Herrera, H., & Mattozzi, A. (2009). Quorum and turnout in referenda. Journal of the European Economic Association, 8(4), 838–871. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Houy, N. (2009). A characterization of majority voting rules with quorums. Theory and Decision, 67(3), 295–301. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ledyard, J. (1981) The paradox of voting and candidate competition: a general equilibrium analysis. G. Horwich & J. Quirck (Eds.), Essays in contemporary fields of economics. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press. Google Scholar
  12. Ledyard, J. (1984). The pure theory of large two-candidate elections. Public Choice, 44(1), 7–41. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Maniquet, F., & Morelli, M. (2010). Approval quorums dominate participation quorums. Working Paper, Series EUI ECO, 2010/13. Google Scholar
  14. Matsusaka, J. G. (2005a). Direct democracy works. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(2), 185–206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Matsusaka, J. G. (2005b). The eclipse of legislatures: direct democracy in the 21st century. Public Choice, 124(1), 157–177. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mueller, D. (2003). Public choice III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Osborne, M., & Slivinski, A. (1996). A model of political competition with citizen-candidates. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 111(1), 65–96. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Osborne, M., Rosenthal, J., & Turner, M. (2000). Meetings with costly participation. American Economic Review, 90(4), 927–943. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Palfrey, T., & Rosenthal, H. (1983). A strategic calculus of voting. Public Choice, 41(1), 7–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Palfrey, T., & Rosenthal, H. (1985). Voter participation and strategic uncertainty. American Political Science Review, 79(1), 62–78. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Riker, W., & Ordeshook, P. (1968). A theory of the calculus of voting. American Political Science Review, 62(1), 25–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut d’Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC)Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Barcelona)Spain
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversidad Carlos III de MadridGetafeSpain

Personalised recommendations