Tilburg Center for Regional Law and Governance

Interdisciplinary research on transformations and innovations in regional law and governance aimed at understanding as well as shaping society.

Vignet Tilburg Center for Regional Law and Governance

Improving turnout in provincial and local elections – research commissioned by the Province of North Brabant

This fall, Julien van Ostaaijen, Sabine van Zuydam and Daan Jacobs will start a new research project that aims to learn more about different ways to improve turnout in subnational elections.

Historically, voter turnout in the province of North Brabant has not been particularly high. In the 2014 municipal elections, for example, only 50.2% of the electorate voted and in the 2015 provincial elections, a mere 43.6% of eligible voters found their way to the polls. These relatively low turnout numbers raise concerns about the legitimacy of subnational administrations and the future viability of the democratic system. It is therefore necessary to acquire an understanding of the reason why citizens do not vote in local or provincial elections, and to find ways to improve turnout in these elections in the future.

Starting from the basic question of why citizens do not vote in local or provincial elections, one part of the project will focus specifically on non-voters. By paying house visits to as many voters as possible, we try to find non-voters who are willing to share their reasons for staying at home in subnational elections. In addition, we will analyze two different ways in which governments can improve voter turnout: motivating potential voters and lowering the cost of voting. During the 2018 Dutch municipal elections, we will conduct experiments in a number of municipalities to not only find out what type of government communication contributes to increasing voter turnout, but also whether increasing the number of polling stations helps in this respect. The first results are expected by May next year.