The Strategy of Recorded Voting in the European Parliament

(project funded by the Research Council of Norway)

(with Bjorn Hoyland and Fang-Yi Chiou)

Project description

Why are some votes in the parliament roll called and not others?

In most parliaments, registration of how each member cast her vote is not the norm. Instead of this roll call voting, as it is called, each proposal is decided by members indicating their position by either a show of hands, getting up from their seat, or by shouting “yea” or “nay” when asked. It is then in the hands of the president of the parliament to decide the outcome. However, it is often possible for a group of legislators to request the recording of how each and every legislator voted. This act is commonly known as a roll call request. However, in parliaments whose rules of procedures open for this possibility, there is large variation in both the proportion of roll call requests as well as the actual number of such requests. Why it that the case?

In StREP – The Strategy of Recorded Voting in the European Parliament – we seek to uncover the strategic game behind the requests of roll call votes. While we seek a understanding of the phenomena in general, the initial empirical focus is on the European Parliament (EP). The reason for this is twofold. First, the EP is an important legislator in its own right, as EU legislation is not only affecting the lives of more than the 500 million people of the EU member states, but also the publics of non-EU member-states such as the Switzerland and Norway. Research on roll call voting in the EP has demonstrated that the voting behavior in these votes to a large extent mirrors what we see in other multiparty systems. Furthermore, a substantive proportion of the votes are not taken by roll call. Although existing research has pointed towards possible strategic reasons for requesting roll calls on some votes but not others, these strategic accounts have not been subjected to systematic statistical testing in any large extent.

Enter StREP. In the project’s first part, we will develop theoretical based statistical estimators suitable for addressing this question. We will collect data that enables systematic testing of strategic models of roll call requests. These results will subsequently lay the foundation for the second part of the project. Here, we incorporate the insight regarding roll call requests when developing and testing new models of MEPs voting behavior, coalition formation and voting outcomes. In the third part of the project we will explore applications of these models and methods to settings beyond the European Parliament.