Event Details

Speaker: Guillem Riambau, Yale-NUS (Singapore)

Abstract: Ballot secrecy is a cornerstone of electoral democracy, since its real or perceived absence can make voters reluctant to express their true political preferences at the ballot box. While much work has been done on how traceable ballots interact with voter intimidation or vote buying, less is known about how the perceived absence of secret ballots affects voter behavior in contexts without voter intimidation and vote buying. Ballots in the stable city-state of Singapore, which has neither overt voter intimidation nor vote buying, contain a pre-assigned unique and non-transferable ID number. While there is no evidence that votes are traced, the ID number has led to the myth that they are, and that voting for the opposition can have negative consequences at the individual level. This paper uses two measurement approaches to formally estimate and upper and lower bound for (i) how widespread the belief in vote tracing is; and (ii) how this belief affects voting behavior. We find that between 32% and 52% of the electorate believes that authorities track votes in some manner, and that even by conservative estimate, around 8% of the electorate likely changed its voting behavior because of the belief. This magnitude is sufficient to impact electoral outcomes.