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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

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Protecting Minorities in Large Binary Elections: A Test of Storable Votes Using Field Data

Alessandra Casella1 / Shuky Ehrenberg2 / Andrew Gelman3 / Jie Shen4

1Columbia University,

2JGB Capital,

3Columbia University,

4UC Irvine,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 10, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.2560, October 2010

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Published Online:

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.


The legitimacy of democratic systems requires the protection of minority preferences while ideally treating every voter equally. During the 2006 student elections at Columbia University, we asked voters to rank the importance of different contests and to choose where to cast a single extra "bonus vote," had one been available — a simple version of Storable Votes. We then constructed distributions of intensities and electoral outcomes and estimated the probable impact of the bonus vote through bootstrapping techniques. The bonus vote performs well: when minority preferences are particularly intense, the minority wins at least one contest with 15-30 percent probability; when the minority wins, aggregate welfare increases with 85-95 percent probability. The paper makes two contributions: it tests the performance of storable votes in a setting where preferences were not controlled, and it suggests the use of bootstrapping techniques when appropriate replications of the data cannot be obtained.

Keywords: voting; minorities; storable votes; elections; bootstrap

Supplementary Article Materials

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