Compulsory voting laws have consistently been demonstrated to boost electoral participation. Despite the widespread presence of compulsory voting and the significant impact these laws appear to have on voting behavior, surprisingly little effort has been devoted to analyzing how mandatory voting alters the decision-making calculus of individual voters in these systems. Moreover, studies that investigate the influence of compulsory voting laws on electoral participation generally treat these policies monolithically, with scant attention to the nuances that differentiate mandatory voting laws across systems and to their consequences for voting rates. Analyses that explicitly and empirically examine the effects of penalties and enforcement are surprisingly rare. This study aims to fill that void by adapting rational choice models of participation in elections for compulsory voting systems. I find that the level of penalties countries impose for non-compliance and the degree of penalty enforcement impact turnout rates. Voters in mandatory voting systems abstain least when both the penalties and the likelihood of enforcement are high, and abstain most when both meaningless.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 29, 2008
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