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Politically Unengaged, Distrusting, and Disaffected Individuals Drive the Link Between Compulsory Voting and Invalid Balloting*


Invalid ballots are relatively common in countries with compulsory voting, yet there is no cross-national evidence as to who is more likely to cast a blank or spoiled ballot where voting is forced. I argue that increased rates of blank and spoiled balloting where voting is obligatory result from the behavior of the politically unknowledgeable, uninterested, untrusting, and disaffected, who are incentivized to turn out to the polls where they can be sanctioned for abstention. To test this, I conduct an individual-level examination of the influence of compulsory voting on invalid balloting across countries. I find support for my expectations with analyses of survey data from several American democracies, many of which compel electoral participation.

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Shane P. Singh is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 ( The author would like to thank Kymara Sneed and Kerri Anne Watson for their assistance. He also thanks the Latin American Public Opinion Project and Latinobarómetro for the data used in this project. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
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