Secret Ballot Elections
The Independent Review 8: 419-425, 2004
Abstract. This paper outlines a theory in which incumbent candidates are shown to benefit from secret ballot laws. The role of private information is central to this result which can be explained as follows. First, bribery is expected to occur under an open ballot system but not under secret ballots since voters need not reveal their underlying preferences. Second, since vote-buying efficiency differs between candidates when voter distributions are unequal, candidates possessing an incumbency advantage are shown to be relatively inefficient and thus benefit from eliminating the vote market.
Economics of Governance 3, 47-57, 2002
Abstract. The secret ballot was designed to eliminate the incentive for candidates to purchase votes through direct vote buying. When voters have private information on their candidate preferences, incumbent candidates will generally be less efficient in purchasing votes than their challengers. Incumbent candidates may therefore benefit from the elimination of direct vote purchasing. Viewed in this vein, passage of secret ballot laws by state legislatures can be seen as an institutional mechanism to protect their incumbency advantage, rather than as an act of necessary electoral reform to create fair elections and protect democracy.
Revisiting the Relationship Between Secret Ballots and Turnout: A New Test of Two Legal-institutional Theories
American Politics Quarterly 28: 194-215, 2000
Abstract. Two theories within the legal-institutional framework concerning the Australian Ballot System's effect on voter turnout are analyzed. The vote market hypothesis assumes secret ballots were designed to end the buying and selling of votes. The secrecy the new ballot provided discouraged candidates from buying votes they could no longer verify, disproportionately affecting poor voters who would respond to this loss of payments by voluntarily abstaining. Alternatively, the theory of strategic disfranchisement predicts blacks and illiterates were specifically targeted for disfranchisement. The new ballots were expected to be more difficult for these voters to use and they would then be effectively prevented from participating in the active electorate. Although turnout decreases under either theory, the normative implications are very different. Controlling for race and illiteracy, regression analysis suggests poor voters were less likely to vote a secret ballot. A similar effect is not found for black and illiterate voters when controlling for income. The evidence is thus more consistent with the vote market hypothesis than a pure disfranchisement effect.
The Social Science Journal 35: 435-443, 1998
Abstract. This article distinguishes between two types of vote buying mechanisms. If vote choices can be monitored, vote buyers will not discriminate amongst prospective voters, regardless of how they are expected to vote. If voting is secret, a vote buyer will pay opposition voters not to vote which forces the opposition to pay its own voters to ensure they do vote. This implies the secret ballot may be less effective in curbing bribery than originally thought.
Public Choice 82: 107-124, 1995
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.