We study the elasticity of turnout on the size of the monetary fines that governments impose on those who fail to vote. We leverage a discontinuity in the size of monetary fines in Peru, where voters in districts above an arbitrary cutoff in poverty rates face higher fines for not voting relative to voters who reside in districts below the cutoff. Using individual-level data on millions of voters for every regional and national election between 2010 and 2016, we find that turnout increases slightly in districts with higher fines—an effect of roughly one percent. This modest effect is similar across socioeconomic groups and elections. Our results highlight a challenge that governments face in designing the sanctions in compulsory voting systems: how to increase turnout without disproportionally hurting the poor or raising turnout inequality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations
- Compulsory voting
- Electoral fines
- Regression discontinuity
- Voter turnout