Protesting via the Null Ballot: An Assessment of the Decision to Cast an Invalid Vote in Latin America
Rates of invalid voting in Latin America are among the highest in the world. Yet, scholars have not reached an agreement about whether these votes are driven by voter protest and, if so, what voters are protesting. Understanding whether these high invalid vote rates signify anti-democratic tendencies is particularly relevant given recent recessions in democratic quality across the region. This paper presents a theoretical framework and empirical tests using individual level data from 14 Latin American countries to show that invalid voting in presidential contests is used by individuals, particularly those high in knowledge, to protest poor government performance. However, invalid voting is not, on balance, an anti-system behavior. While political alienation differentially predicts invalid voting in countries with mandatory vote laws, the link between performance assessments and self-reported invalid voting is consistent across various contextual features that scholars link to invalid voting behavior.
KeywordsInvalid voting Null voting Latin America Political behavior Protest vote
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