The Cost of Voting and the Cost of Votes

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In new democracies, political parties often use clientelist strategies to mobilize voters during elections. In this article, we show that political machines systematically use vote buying to target voters with low costs of voting. We employ a geocoded survey of 3,192 respondents collected immediately after the municipal elections of 2016 in South Africa. We combine the survey data with administrative data on the geographical location of more than 22,600 polling stations. Our identification strategy exploits discontinuities in distances to vote generated by voting district boundaries in South Africa. This allows us to proxy the cost of voting with distance to the polling station and estimate the causal effect of the cost of voting on parties’ use of vote buying. The results have important implications for core assumptions concerning parties’ targeting strategies and for how electoral institutions shape the linkage strategies parties use to mobilize political support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Politics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)593-608
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 269510431