Random voting

In an effort to improve voter turnout the Arizona Voter Reward Act (if approved) would give every voter a chance to win a prize of $1 million.  Great.  Why not hand out a bottle of vino with every vote or some crack?   Where is Richard Titmuss when you need him?   What sort of people won’t vote if there is no lottery but will vote if they get a lottery ticket and why do we want these people to vote?

Frankly, too many people vote already.  I know, that’s heresy against the great religion of democracy – i.e. worship of the mob – but other people voting is an externality on me and in this case I will side with Pigou.


Thanks to Curtis Melvin for the pointer.


This gives a new depth of meaning to Mencken's crack about a political
election being a sort of advance auction sale of stolen property.

I note that the guy who's behind the resolution is a Democrat, and I'm sure he knows EXACTLY what the effect will be: more Democratic voters.

I agree that voting is an externality. In a stable democracy, like Arizona, it's probably negative. In a less established democracy, in danger of losing its "legitimacy" (read: revolution, military coup, ...) voting may carry a positive externality.

Bring on the money!

"She understands that every vote does count."

Which is of course quite false.

Alex seems to have a low opinion of some of his fellow americans. Australia has had _compulsory_ voting since 1924 and they seem to be doing OK. Perhaps that has resulted in better informed voters over time. Australia also places a "none of the above" option on all ballots. I even found an website dedicated to NOTA. http://www.nota.org/. What a grand idea!

Here in Australia there is a formal incentive to vote but it works in the reverse - punishment not reward. It is compulsory for every citizen over the age of 18 at the time of an election to vote. Those who do not vote receive a fine.

When I was younger I was very much against this incentive of punishment and considered the choice of not voting to be as important as the right to vote. Nowadays I think it is not such a bad idea.

"She understands that every vote does count."

In most places I've lived, one or the other party dominated everything so voting was a waste because the election was pre-determined.

"The government you get is the reward for voting." Unfortunately, in Arizona, the government you get rewarded with for having voted may make you wish you'd never voted at all.

Well, consulting history, the founders of America did find it somewhat necessary to provide incentives for their fellow Americans to join the revolution. While one may argue that the Sons of Liberty making a routine of meeting at taverns over beer to discuss politics may be a continuation of similar traditions in Europe, one cannot mistake the practice of having some free beer available to boost attendance for the Minutemen drills after the first few drills did not attract enough people. I don't know if the marginal benefits apply in the same way to voting though... any realized benefits from such a plan are, I think, likely to be long-range benefits.

Why use Virginia as an example when you're so close to '9% for Bush' Washington DC.

I think nuclearpoet has the idea, free beer at voting stations!

Compulsory voting for a freer society. My that has a nice ring to it.

I think that this is quite timely and apropos of the Onion:


"Perhaps a better way to think of it may be "who would be motivated to vote simply by the consideration of the expected value of a lottery ticket?""

Well, it might help put an end to this ban-online-gambling nonsense. :)

Compulsory voting has a beneficial impact on politicians. When voting is optional the emphasis is on getting one's base out to vote, and persuading the opponent's base that they should not bother voting. When voting is mandatory (or seen as a social obligation) politicians cannot influence the outcome by affecting turnout, and so must persuade. This may be one reason why US election campaigns focus on mudslinging, while Australian campaigns appear to be rational efforts to persuade marginal voters. I don't have the figures, but I would guess that Australian elections are far less costly on a campaign-dollar-per-vote basis.

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