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The paper empirically tests the proposition that because of unequal social distribution of politically relevant resources, some groups of citizens may be less successful in expressing their specifically political preferences in the vote than others. Hence, the electoral arena may give different people different degrees of political influence even when the formal equality of all citizens before the law is rigorously upheld in the electoral process. The first part of the paper explores the assumptions behind the proposition itself and the further assumptions that need to be made in order to test it empirically. The second part of the paper (forthcoming in the next issue of this periodical) offers an empirical test. Survey data on voting behavior in 18 democratic party systems from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems and Larry Bartels' (1996) simulation procedure - now extended to the analysis of multiparty-systems, turnout effects and non-linear information effects on the vote - are utilized to explore the question. The results show that social differences in both turnout and political knowledge may lead to the hypothesized inequalities but their size is remarkably modest.

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