Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Voting Matters: A Critical Examination and Defense of Democracy's Central Practice
Authors: Chapman, Emilee
Advisors: Pettit, Philip
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Citizenship
Political Parties
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation provides an account of the democratic value of popular voting that is sensitive both to existing beliefs about the importance of voting and to the conceptual and practical limitations of voting as a method of political influence. Elections cannot bear all of the normative weight of democracy. Nevertheless, popular voting in elections plays a distinctive, valuable, and central role in contemporary democratic practice. Structuring the public life of a community around moments of highly visible, formally equal mass participation underscores the democratic maxim that all of the members of the community are equal agents in the project of collective self-rule and contributes a number of benefits to a healthy democratic practice. Democracy is not just a set of ideal principles; it is also a collective activity. Appreciating the demands of collective agency should lead democratic theorists to value a range of existing democratic practices, even when they deviate from the ideal. Moreover, I argue, actual beliefs about and practices of democracy in existing communities should play an important role in shaping normative claims about the ethics of citizenship and democratic reform. In particular, democratic theorists and would-be reformers should recognize how common understandings of democratic citizenship sustain shared plans that coordinate citizens’ various individual contributions toward the shared aim of democratic self-rule. This account of democracy as a collective activity provides a framework for evaluating particular aspects of the practice of popular voting in contemporary democracy. In this dissertation, I use the method of constructive interpretation to develop an account of voting that makes the most sense of existing beliefs, principles, and practices when they are understood as part of a shared plan for democracy. I then articulate a set of standards that must be met if popular voting is to effectively fulfill its distinctively valuable role in the plan for democracy. Finally, I apply these standards to gain critical purchase in several debates about designing and reforming electoral institutions, including the value of partisanship and political parties, the administration of the Election Day experience, and mandatory voting.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Chapman_princeton_0181D_11715.pdf1.87 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.