In the last years there has been a decrease of voter turnout in most ofthe European countries.
Factors influencing voter turnout are many andamong them there are economic factors such as costs related to the act ofvoting; demographic factors such as the individual characteristics of voters;technological and institutional factors and so on. Low turnout has among itsconsequences an unfair representation of the population and therefore, it isusually considered to be a socially unwanted outcome. Consequently, there havebeen numerous studies which aim was to identify the determinant factors ofturnout, in order to encourage participation in the political process.
Despitesignificant study into the matter, the causes and consequences for the changesin voting turnout are still not clearly determined. In his work Jackman(1987) finds that political institutions and electoral law have an importantimpact on voter turnout. Heshows 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 relevantimportance is the impact of the electoral system on voter turnout.Blais and Carty(1990) assess the effect of different electoral formulae on voter turnout inwestern democratic states and find higher turnout rates in states adopting the PRsystem.Several empirical studies have attempted to explainthe consequence of having more freedom on the choice of a candidate on voterturnout. Among them, there are severalpapers about the effect of Open List vs.
Closed List, with dissimilar views ontheir impact on voter turnout. Blumenauat al (2014) find that open list systems allow for intra-party competition whichpermit voters to choose among not only parties but also among candidates,fostering competition among candidates and allowing for smaller parties to getmore representative power.In contrast, Robbins (2010) find that party-centeredclosed list systems compared to candidate-centered open list systems, increasevoter turnout. This is a consequence of the more active lobbying activities ofparties in closed list systems, which aim is to have a higher influence onvoters’ preferences.
Ingeneral, the empirical evidence is unsettled and the effect of the pollstructure on turnout is still an unsolved query. Sanz (2015) studiesthe effect of electoral system on voter turnout in Spain. He compares voterturnout among municipalities withdifferent electoral systems as well as different number of citizens. He showsthat open list systems compared to a closed list system enhances voter turnout,as a consequence of the possibility given to voters to choose for individualcandidates from the same or different party list.On the same line, with the present work the aim isto assess the impact of electoral system on voter turnout in Italy. I will makeuse of the particular institutional framework of Italian local elections wheremunicipalities are divided into two main groups, namely those that apply thesingle ballot plurality system and those that apply instead dual ballotmajority system.
I will then assess the impact of these two different rules onvoter turnout by means of regression discontinuity design. Hence, the present work aims to contribute to thealready existing collection of works, hoping to put more light on theconsequences that the freedom of choice of voters has on turnout. Moreover, tomy knowledge there are no other studies which use the RD design to estimate theimpact of the two electoral systems on voters’ casting choice and consequentlyvoter turnout of Italian municipalities.