Incumbency preservation through electoral legislation: The case of the secret ballot

Research paper by Jac C. Heckelman, Andrew J. Yates

Indexed on: 01 Mar '02Published on: 01 Mar '02Published in: Economics of Governance


The secret ballot was designed to eliminate the incentive for candidates to purchase votes through direct vote buying. When voters have private information on their candidate preferences, incumbent candidates will generally be less efficient in purchasing votes than their challengers. Incumbent candidates may therefore benefit from the elimination of direct vote purchasing. Viewed in this vein, passage of secret ballot laws by state legislatures can be seen as an institutional mechanism to protect their incumbency advantage, rather than as an act of necessary electoral reform to create fair elections and protect democracy.