Closeness Counts in Canada: Voter Participation in the 1993 and 1997 Federal Elections

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Abstract

Theory suggests that eligible voters should be more likely to cast ballots when election margins are close. Empirical evidence, however, is mixed. Operational definitions of key concepts such as turnout and election closeness are often inconsistent and limited in application to two-party systems. This paper provides a more generalized test of the turnout-competition link in electoral districts. Data are 1993 and 1997 constituency-level election results for the Canadian House of Commons. Canada provides an excellent case for comparison because it has single-member districts, plurality elections, both national and regional parties, and multiparty competition throughout the nation. Several alternative measures for “turnout” and “closeness” are evaluated in the context of multiparty elections. A new index of competitiveness is developed. Multicandidate measures of closeness are related to higher levels of voter participation in Canadian federal elections.

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