Constructing the Demos: Voter Qualifications, Participation, and Suppression in Comparative Context

In recent years voter qualification requirements have generated an immense amount of controversy. The debate is polarized. Critics contend that these requirements are intended to and have the effect of depriving people of their right to vote. By contrast, proponents of voter qualification requirements claim that these rules are necessary to protect the integrity of the vote.

This paper sets out a theoretical framework for assessing voter qualifications. It then applies the framework to a wide array of voter qualification requirements, including citizenship, residency, minimum age, voter identification, voter registration, and rules applying to criminal conviction. It considers voter qualifications from a comparative perspective, drawing on the regulations found in a number of jurisdictions, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, India, Israel, Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Conceptions of Politics in Comparative Perspective

All political systems begin with heterogeneity of opinion and, if functioning properly, produce unique, concrete decisions and policy choices.  The different forms and practices of collective self-governance can usefully be conceived as different kinds of “treatment” for the “condition” of heterogeneity of opinion, and these different treatments can in turn produce substantially different kinds of politics.  This chapter examines the familiar choice between winner-take-all and proportional electoral systems.  It argues that these systems are not merely alternative and largely interchangeable systems of vote-counting.  Rather, they rest upon different and incompatible assumptions about the nature and epistemology of the common good, the obligations of citizens, and the nature of representation itself.  Moreover, the two systems produce very different kinds of politics: they make distinct choices about the institutional locus of dispute resolution and structure very different political experiences for both voters and representatives.

Recognition and Protection of Political Rights

Author's abstract not yet available. The paper will undertake a comparative examination of the types and content of constitutionally protected political rights across regimes to illuminate the conditions that different societies understand to be foundational to the construction of a successful regime of democratic self-rule.

A Constitutional Perspective on Electoral Gender Quotas

Countries around the world have witnessed a tremendous increase in women’s numerical representation in Parliament. This has largely been attributed to the introduction of gender quotas in more than 130 countries world-wide. The 9 countries on top of the world classification of women’s representation in Parliament, however, form a heterogeneous set, covering three continents, varying levels of economic development or egalitarian societal values, and representing democratic as well as authoritarian regimes.  If, as has been claimed, ‘true’ democracy implies gender parity, then this cannot be turned around: gender parity in Parliament does not in itself imply democracy. Authoritarian regimes may have a high proportion of women in parliament, whereas democratic societies may show a poor record in this respect. The link between gender parity and ‘true’ democracy, then, is largely a conceptual one: what a ‘true’ democracy is, depends on a society’s portrayal of mankind, reflected in legal models of representation. In this presentation, we are interested in how democracy and women’s representation are related in a conceptual way. More specifically, we are interested in models of representation underpinning democratic concepts, and what this means for the use and constitutionality of gender quota.

Theories of Representation

Author's final abstract not yet available. Through an examination, from a comparative point of view, of systems of legislative representation, the paper will illuminate differing foundational conceptions of representation — the function of representation, the nature of normatively good representation, and the qualities of good representatives.