DP7320 Higher Vote Thresholds for Incumbents, Effort and Selection

Author(s): Hans Gersbach
Publication Date: June 2009
Keyword(s): effort, elections, incumbents, political contracts, selection, vote-share thresholds
JEL(s): D7, D82, H4
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=7320

The election mechanism has difficulties in selecting the most able candidates and deselecting less able ones. In a simple model we show that the power of elections as a selection and incentive device can be improved by requiring higher vote thresholds than 50% for incumbents. A higher vote threshold makes it impossible for office-holders of low ability to pool with more able office-holders in order to be reelected. As a consequence, the average ability of reelected politicians and the average effort level tends to increase. The socially optimal threshold can be set by the public. Alternatively, one could allow candidates to compete with individual vote thresholds.