The gap within: impact of separate-gender polling stations on turnout

Blavatnik School working paper
Abstract

BSG-WP-2020/037

Governments in several countries create separate-gender polling stations to encourage female voting. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness of this policy. The authors, two Blavatnik School DPhil students, estimate the impact of separate-gender polling stations on voter turnout using administrative data from the 2018 general election in Pakistan.

They find that being assigned to separate-gender polling stations reduces turnout for both women and men by 2 and 1 percentage points respectively, when compared to mixed-gender polling stations. The results remain consistent after controlling for the role of resources, norms and mobility-related costs. Together, these results indicate that separate-gender polling stations do not alleviate gender-based voting constraints faced by women and instead increase non-gendered costs of voting for both women and men.

In a context where female participation in political life is low to begin with, this policy presents an additional barrier for women's voting while having unintended consequences for men's voting.