Turning Out Together: The Impact of Gender-Specific Polling Station on Voter Turnout

Delivered via Zoom

We use administrative electoral data at the polling station level from the 2018 general election in Pakistan to study the impact of separate gender polling stations on voter turnout. We find that being assigned to a separate gender polling station reduces turnout of both men and women, compared to their counterparts in mixed-gender polling stations. The absolute magnitude of the impact is higher for women. We use additional survey data to analyse six different categories of mechanisms and find that the policy is even more ineffective in places where women have less income, education, awareness or bargaining power. On the other hand, having corresponding polling stations of the opposite gender in the same location is associated with a higher turnout for both genders. Our results suggest that in a context where female participation in political life is low to begin with, creating female-only polling stations presents an additional barrier for women’s voting. In the presence of cultural mobility-related norms that prevent women from moving out alone, voting with a partner, for cultural or economic reasons, might be better than voting alone.