The Case for Nil Votes: Voter Behavior Under Asymmetric Information in Compulsory and Voluntary Voting Systems

Monday, October 16, 2017
Attila Ambrus
Ben Greiner
Anne Sastro


In an informational voting environment, we study the impact of an explicit nil vote option on the ballot when some voters are uninformed and face the swing voters curse. We postulate a simple model of strategic voting in which voters entertain heterogeneous thresholds on legitimacy of different voting actions. We predict that introducing a nil vote option reduces the number of uninformed and invalid votes, increasing expected welfare in both voluntary and compulsory voting. We test our model in a pen-and-paper laboratory experiment, and find that the predictions of the model hold in the data, for both voting systems.


Attila Ambrus, Ben Greiner, and Anne Sastro, Journal of Public Economics, October 2017, 34-48, Vol. 154