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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

When Surname Provides Electoral Advantage: Ballot-Order Effect in Slovakia

Petr Voda
Masaryk University
Petr Voda
Masaryk University
Martina Mudríková
Masaryk University
Peter Spáč
Masaryk University
Jozef Zagrapan
Slovak Academy of Sciences

One of the primary characteristics of democratic election is its fairness. For candidates, this means they should be given roughly equal chances to get elected. However, the design of electoral systems can hamper this equity as it can provide unfounded advantage to some candidates over others. Vast literature shows that ordering candidates on lists may influence their prospects of being elected. More specifically, existing research indicates that primarily higher ranked candidates get a surplus of votes solely due to their position on the list. This effect is expected to be stronger in low information elections where voters more often rely on cues including the ballot position.
This study investigates ballot-order effect in Slovakia and answers the question whether the alphabetical order of candidates influences the share of obtained votes in local and regional elections, both of which are held under identical rules, i.e. bloc (unlimited) voting. Based on unique data from two local elections and from five regional elections, results show that candidates with names from both the beginning and the end of the alphabet are clearly advantaged when compared to their rivals. These candidates occupy the front and bottom positions on the ballot lists what increases their likelihood of becoming elected as well as their shares of votes. This effect is very similar in both municipal and regional elections, thus it seems that level of information in elections does not affect the mechanism of dis/advantage given by order on ballot. Therefore, one of the main conclusions of the paper is that the electoral laws fail to be neutral as they treat the candidates differently on an unjustifiable basis.
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