Public Choice

, Volume 159, Issue 3–4, pp 469–483 | Cite as

(De)Centralization and voter turnout: theory and evidence from German municipalities

  • Claus Michelsen
  • Peter Boenisch
  • Benny Geys


A vast academic literature illustrates that voter turnout is affected by the institutional design of elections (e.g., compulsory voting, electoral system, postal or Sunday voting). In this article, we exploit a simple Downsian theoretical framework to argue that the institutional framework of public good provision—and, in particular, the distribution of political and administrative competences across government levels—likewise affects voters’ turnout decisions by influencing the expected net benefit of voting. Empirically, we exploit the institutional variation across German municipalities to test this proposition, and find supportive evidence.


Voter turnout Institutions Federalism Paradox of voting 

JEL Classification

D70 D72 H11 H40 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban EconomicsHalle Institute for Economic ResearchHalle (Saale)Germany
  2. 2.Faculty of Law and Economics, School of Economics and BusinessMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  3. 3.Department of Applied EconomicsVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselBelgium
  4. 4.Department of EconomicsNorwegian Business School BIOsloNorway

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