In the last years there has been a decrease of voter turnout in most of
the European countries. Factors influencing voter turnout are many and
among them there are economic factors such as costs related to the act of
voting; factors such as individual characteristics of voters; technological and
institutional factors and so on. Low turnout has among its consequences an
unfair representation of the population and therefore, it is usually considered
to be a socially unwanted outcome. Consequently, there have been numerous studies
which aim was to identify the determinant factors of turnout and improve the contribution
of voters in the election of politicians. Despite significant study into the matter,
the causes and consequences for the changes in voting turnout are still not
In his work Jackman
(1987) finds that political institutions and electoral law have an important
impact on voter turnout. He
shows that electoral districts which are more competitive at national level,
foster voter turnout. He also finds that Multipartyism decreases turnout,
since it weakens the relevance of elections in the formation of a government.
Among these causes, of relevant
importance is the impact of the electoral system on voter turnout.
Blais and Carty
(1990) assess the effect of different electoral formulae on voter turnout in
western democratic states and find higher turnout rates in states adopting the PR
Several empirical studies have attempted to explain
the consequence of having more freedom on the choice of a candidate on voter
turnout. Among them, there are several
papers about the effect of Open List vs. Closed List, with dissimilar views on
their impact on voter turnout.
at al (2014) find that open list systems allow for intra-party competition which
permit voters to choose among not only parties but also among candidates,
fostering competition among candidates and allowing for smaller parties to get
more representative power.
In contrast, Robbins (2010) find that party-centered
closed list systems compared to candidate-centered open list systems, increase
voter turnout. This is a consequence of the more active lobbying activities of
parties in closed list systems, which aim is to have a higher influence on
voters’ preferences. In
general, the empirical evidence is unsettled and the effect of the poll
structure on turnout is still an unsolved query.
Sanz (2015) studies
the effect of electoral system on voter turnout in Spain. He compares voter
turnout among municipalities with
different electoral systems as well as different number of citizens. He shows
that open list systems compared to a closed list system enhances voter turnout,
as a consequence of the possibility given to voters to choose for individual
candidates from the same or different party list.
On the same line, with the present work the aim is
to assess the impact of electoral system on voter turnout in Italy. I will make
use of the particular institutional framework of Italian local elections where
municipalities are divided into two main groups, namely those that apply the
single ballot plurality system and those that apply instead dual ballot
majority system. I will then assess the impact of these two different rules on
voter turnout by means of regression discontinuity design.
Hence, the present work aims to contribute to the
already existing collection of works, hoping to put more light on the
consequences that the freedom of choice of voters has on turnout. Moreover, to
my knowledge there are no other studies which use the RD design to estimate the
impact of the two electoral systems on voters’ casting choice and consequently
voter turnout of Italian municipalities.