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The effect of the secret ballot on voter turnout rates

Abstract

Secrecy in the voting process eliminated an important motivation for voting. No longer able to verify the voters' choices, political parties stopped offering payments in return for votes. Within the rational voter framework, it will be shown that these payments were a prime impetus for people to vote. Without a vote market to cover their voting costs, many voters were rational to stay away from the polls.

This hypothesis is supported through a series of empirical tests culminating in a multivariate legislative regression. When other electoral laws are controlled for, the secret ballot accounts for 7 percentage points lower Gubernatorial turnout.

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Electoral data of the total number of votes cast in each election is provided by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Ann Arbor, MI. Analysis of the data and the conclusions drawn in this paper reflect the views of the author and do not represent the views of ICPSR. I would like to thank Timothy S. Sullivan and M. Malanoski for detailed criticisms of earlier drafts of this paper.

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Heckelman, J.C. The effect of the secret ballot on voter turnout rates. Public Choice 82, 107–124 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01047732

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Keywords

  • Public Finance
  • Political Party
  • Empirical Test
  • Voter Turnout
  • Important Motivation