Voting in Italy’s 2020 constitutional referendum led to more COVID-19 cases in Italy, study finds – ScienceDaily

In September 2020, at the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, Italians voted for a constitutional amendment aimed at reducing the number of deputies. In addition, in seven of the 20 Italian regions, citizens also voted to elect regional governments and representatives of regional assemblies; finally, in 955 of the 7,903 Italian municipalities, citizens were invited to choose a new mayor. This increased level of electoral activity resulted in a 22% increase in turnout in municipalities that voted for both the referendum and the local elections, compared to municipalities that only voted for the referendum.

The Surrey team analyzed weekly Covid-19 infections across Italy (at municipal level) before and after the September poll and found that a 1% increase in turnout was equivalent to an average increase 1.1% of post-election infections.

Dr Giuseppe Moscelli, co-author of the study and economics reader at the University of Surrey, said:

“With the recent political unrest in Italy culminating in the end of Mario Draghi’s government, it is important to reflect on the past two and a half years, which have been an extremely tragic period for all of Italy.

“The 2020 referendum took place as the world faced the unprecedented threat of Covid-19, and our model shows that something as basic as voting can come at a cost.”

As well as saving around 23,000 lives, Surrey researchers found that postponing Italy’s 2021 general election saved the country €362 million in additional hospital costs for patients who would have been admitted to units hospital care and intensive care.

Dr Marco Mello, study co-author and researcher at the University of Surrey, added:

“The decision to postpone an election or general referendum due to a pandemic event poses a clear trade-off between human lives and health on the one hand, and political rights on the other. With our research, we offer a economic framework that such a significant assessment be undertaken in similar future situations.”

The research was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

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Material provided by University of Surrey. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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