The Cost of Voting and the Cost of Votes

Mogens Kamp Justesen, Anders Woller, Jacob Gerner Hariri

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


In new democracies, political parties often use clientelist strategies to mobilize voters during elections, and such strategies are often targeted at particular groups, such as the poor or those with particular partisan affiliations. In this paper we show that political machines systematically target voters with low costs of voting. The study employs a geo-coded survey of more than 3.200 respondents in South Africa collected following the municipal elections of 2016. We combine the survey data with administrative data on the geographical location of more than 22.600 voting stations, and proxy the cost of voting with the voters’ distance to their respective voting station. Our identification strategy exploits the quasi-random generation of voting district boundaries in South Africa. The ’as-if’ random assignment of voting districts for respondents in close proximity to the border allows us to estimate the causal effect of the cost of voting on parties’ use of vote buying as an electoral strategy. We find that higher costs of voting lower the probability of being targeted with vote buying in the run-up to elections. This has potential implications for the core assumptions concerning parties’ targeting strategies, and for initiatives seeking to consolidate democracy in newly democratized countries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages46
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAmerican Political Science Association, APSA Annual Meeting 2018: Democracy and its Discontents - Boston, United States
Duration: 30 Aug 20182 Sep 2018
Conference number: 114


ConferenceAmerican Political Science Association, APSA Annual Meeting 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
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