Saturday, July 27, 2013

EconOMNOMNOM: voting?

Welcome to EconOMNOMNOM (Econ Food for Thought!).  This is a place for silly ideas that I do feel like thinking about but don't feel like writing about. Just some stuff to munch on.

Today's EconOMNOMNOM:  What would happen if in presidential elections, not showing up meant you automatically voted for whatever party you were registered with?

Look, I'm not even going to spend time figuring out how to phrase that elegantly.  The whole point is for me not to have to do any real work here.  (Of course I welcome your comments and/or blog posts in response!)

It would also be great if I could make some money off of all this non-work.  Therefore I will be monetizing my EconOMNOMNOM posts with ads for delicious edibles so you can satisfy the OMNOMNOM cravings they invariably trigger.  This issue of EconOMNOMNOM is brought to you by Tony's Country Style Ham and Cheese Biscuitwiches.  This mouth-watering product really sells itself:
"Silver Lake and Michael Dell are asking that along with the increased offer, a special committee conducting Dell's sale agree to revise the merger agreement so absentee votes at the shareholder meeting aren't counted against the takeover consortium. It is reported that about 20% of Dell's shareholders were absent the July 18 vote, creating a roadblock for the private equity buyers."
...Not surprisingly, turnout really matters in elections where you vote "no" if you don't show up.

(It's good it sells itself because I certainly am not going to do any additional work, if you didn't get that already.  By the way, Tony, I learned why you find ham so mouth-watering: the ham you know and love is actually a ham-and-water-product!)

1 comment:

  1. As I was writing the post, I was thinking of alternative voting rules for presidential elections. You hit on one, but there are others too.

    (1) Not showing up means that your vote is cast for the challenger (or to avoid ambiguity, the challenger who gets the most affirmative votes). This could mitigate the status quo bias.

    (2) Not showing up means your vote is cast for the incumbent. Less turnover in government could be a good thing, no?

    (3) Not showing up means your vote is cast for the party that wins your district's house seat. Might be fun, haven't thought it through.

    But, most of all, I think it would be interesting to think about the effect of these alternative voting rules on turnout. In your case, turnout might plummet. I just register as a Republican or Democrat, and then I'm set -- votes cast for life, and no need to show up. Maybe even less need to pay attention.

    If swing voters are 10-15 percent of voters, we would have significantly less than 10-15 percent of people show up to vote. Maybe I'd want to change my vote, but man, I'd have to go down there just to uncheck some boxes. And (!), everyone at the ballot box would know that I'm switching my position.

    This isn't true of all of the voting rules I have in mind. For example, on the "no vote" means I like the challenger, there would still be an incentive to show up to vote support your favorite challenger, and incumbent supporters would need to come out in droves. I think the real trick is defining the set of voters in advance. This is easy in the case of shareholder votes - we know shares outstanding - but it is harder when we're tallying votes for president - population changes all the time, and keeping track of those eligible to vote is even more difficult.

    Anyway, I'm glad you found that tidbit as mouthwatering as I find ham, but I hope that my blog isn't turning into idea-and-water product. I would hate to think of my blog as watered down!