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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 11, 2020

Democratic Legitimacy and the Competence Obligation

Finlay Malcolm ORCID logo


What obligations are there on voters? This paper argues that voters should make their electoral decision competently, and does so by developing on a recent proposal for democratic legitimacy. It then explores three problems arising from this ‘competency obligation’. First, how should voters be competent? I propose three conditions required for voter competence. Second, how competent should voters be? I argue that the competency required tracks the significance of the consequences of the vote. Third, if the electorate are unlikely to deliver a competent decision, should suffrage be restricted to the competent alone? I defend unrestricted suffrage on the grounds that restricting suffrage cannot guarantee a competently made electoral decision. Instead, obligations on voters should be minimised by political parties satisfying their obligations to be politically sound; if they are sound, then the obligation to be competent can be easily satisfied by voters.


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Published Online: 2020-03-11
Published in Print: 2021-04-27

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