Public Choice

, Volume 178, Issue 1–2, pp 231–265 | Cite as

A banana republic? The effects of inconsistencies in the counting of votes on voting behavior

  • Niklas Potrafke
  • Felix RoeselEmail author


We examine whether local inconsistencies in the counting of votes influence voting behavior. We exploit the case of the second ballot of the 2016 presidential election in Austria. The ballot needed to be repeated because postal votes were counted carelessly in individual electoral districts (“scandal districts”). We use a difference-in-differences approach comparing election outcomes from the regular and the repeated round. The results do not show that voter turnout and postal voting declined significantly in scandal districts. Quite the contrary, voter turnout and postal voting increased slightly by about 1 percentage point in scandal districts compared to non-scandal districts. Postal votes in scandal districts also were counted with some greater care in the repeated ballot. We employ micro-level survey data indicating that voters in scandal districts blamed the federal constitutional court for ordering a second election, but did not seem to blame local authorities.


Elections Trust Political scandals Administrative malpractice Counting of votes Voter turnout Populism Natural experiment 

JEL Classifications

D72 D02 Z18 P16 



We thank the editors William F. Shughart II and Keith Dougherty, as well as Clemens Fuest, Monika Koeppl-Turyna, Andreas Steinmayr, Kaspar Wüthrich, the participants of seminar at the Technische Universität Dresden and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. We also thank Christina Matzka for sharing the micro-level survey data and Lisa Giani-Contini for proof-reading. Felix Roesel gratefully acknowledges DFG funding (Grant Number 400857762). A previous version of this paper circulated as CESifo Working Paper 6254 under the title “A Banana Republic? Trust in Electoral Institutions in Western Democracies—Evidence from a Presidential Election in Austria”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ifo Institute, ifo Center for Public Finance and Political EconomyMunichGermany
  2. 2.University of MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.ifo Institute, Dresden BranchDresdenGermany

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