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World democracies widely differ in legislative, executive and legal institutions. Different institutional environments induce different mappings from electoral outcomes to the distribution of power. We explore how these mappings affect voters' participation to an election. We show that the effect of such institutional differences on turnout depends on the distribution of voters' preferences. We uncover a novel contest effect: given the distribution of preferences, turnout increases and thendoi:10.3386/w20451 fatcat:5pzis5vofvd6bptlngegyjpluu