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Published August 1, 2017 | Submitted
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Efficiency, Equity, and Timing of Voting Mechanisms


We compare the behavior of voters under simultaneous and sequential voting rules when voting is costly and information is incomplete. In many political institutions, ranging from small committees to mass elections, voting is sequential, which allows some voters to know the choices of earlier voters. For a stylized model, we generate a variety of predictions about the relative efficiency and participation equity of these two systems, which we test using controlled laboratory experiments. Most of the qualitative predictions are supported by the data, but there are significant departures from the predicted equilibrium strategies, in both the sequential and simultaneous voting games. We find a tradeoff between information aggregation, efficiency, and equity in sequential voting: a sequential voting rule aggregates information better than simultaneous voting and is more efficient in some information environments, but sequential voting is inequitable because early voters pay greater participation costs.

Additional Information

We thank Anna Bassi, Shivani Nayyar, Valeria Palanza, and Stephanie Wang for their research assistance. We also benefited from the comments of Sandy Gordon, Scott DeMarchi, and participants at the Interactions Workshop at GREQAM, Marseille, the Conference on Constitutional and Scientific Quandries at ICER, Torino, the Conference in Tribute to Jean-Jacques Laffont in Toulouse, the 2005 American Political Science Association Annual Meetings, and seminar participants at the Princeton Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. Rebecca Morton also thanks the Center for support during the early stages of this research. Marco Battaglini acknowledges support from NSF grant SES-0418150 and SES-0547748 and Thomas Palfrey acknowledges support from NSF grants SES-0079301 and SES-0094800.

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