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Technology and protest: the political effects of electronic voting in India

Zuheir Desai and Alexander Lee

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 2, 398-413

Abstract: Electronic voting technology is often proposed as translating voter intent to vote totals better than alternative systems such as paper ballots. We suggest that electronic voting machines (EVMs) can also alter vote choice, and, in particular, the way in which voters register anti-system sentiment. This paper examines the effects of the introduction of EVMs in India, the world's largest democracy, using a difference-in-differences methodology that takes advantage of the technology's gradual introduction. We find that EVMs are associated with dramatic declines in the incidence of invalid votes, and corresponding increases in vote for minor candidates. There is ambiguous evidence for EVMs decreasing turnout, no evidence for increases in rough proxies of voter error or fraud, and no evidence that machines with an auditable paper trail perform differently from other EVMs. The results highlight the interaction between voter technology and voter protest, and the substitutability of different types of protest voting.

Date: 2021
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