Voter turnout data make many of our comparisons invalid

afp-early-count-points-to-record-turnout-in-scotland-vote

It was much commented that turnout in yesterday’s Scottish referendum was very high (at 85%), and some also reported that there had been a surge in voter registrations, with as many as 97% of eligible voters registered to vote. Of course if 97% of eligible voters registered then turnout wasn’t actually 85%, but 82.5% (85*.97 – still pretty impressive). In most countries and many cross-country studies we take the turnout as the number of voters/ number of registered voters. Continue reading

Turnout isn’t even a symptom, so let’s stop the hand wringing

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We’re all worried about the decline in turnout, aren’t we? Politicians, academics and other worthies march up to Glenties every year to worry about our failing politics, and to self-flagellate about our failure to reform it.

And it’s not just us we’re worried about this year. With the results of the 2014 European elections we worry that other parts of Europe have gone bad. They’ve elected nationalists! Let’s forget that the vote for the racist nationalists, who I assume are the ones we don’t like, has gone down in many countries. Something must be done!

The standard analysis is that the Front National in France and Britain’s UKIP were elected because so many good people didn’t bother to vote. It’s probably true that low turnout inflates support for anti-EU parties. It is also likely that in general elections in these countries, when more people vote.

But do we really need to solve the ‘problem’ of low turnout? Continue reading

In elections it’s not just how votes are counted that matters

The first annual report of the highly influential Electoral Integrity Project has just been published (see here). Professor Pippa Norris and her colleagues have carried out an extensive survey of the electoral process across the world’s democracies over the past few years. Ireland’s last election (2011) preceded this project so it was not included on this occasion, but as the work of this project continues, our next election will come under scrutiny. Continue reading

A political system friendly to independents but not to new parties

jfoley11aEvery day there is some opinion piece or other speculating about the possibility of a new political party emerging in Ireland. Journalistic eyes are peeled, watching every movement, signal or nuance from the likes of Lucinda Creighton, Michael McDowell, or any other obvious contenders seen as most likely to lead the way in establishing a new party. But how our political system is set up makes life very difficult for ambitious individuals aspiring to establish a new party. By contrast, it’s very easy for ambitious individuals wanting to run for office as independents. Continue reading

The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date

ccvenDeclaration of interest: The author is the research director of the Irish Constitutional Convention

The Irish Constitutional Convention has almost completed its work.  At its most recent meeting it dealt with the last of the eight topics assigned to it by the Government. All that remains is for the Convention to use its remaining time to consider ‘Any other Amendments’ — the focus of its final meetings early in the New Year.

On its establishment, the Convention was roundly criticised, with much of the criticism focused on the limited (and admitedly pretty eclectic) range of topics that it was given to consider.  Over the course of its deliberations minds have changed and many who were critical of it are less so today (see here for an example).

This post updates on an earlier analysis (see here) of the progress of the Convention to date. Continue reading

New Report on Lotteries Published

Post by Dr Peter Stone (TCD)

In Aristotle’s day, people took it for granted that democracy meant selection by lottery, and aristocracy meant elections. Today, most people assume that a democratic society elects all of its officials. But a growing movement believes that we should revisit selection by lottery as a means of curing the various ills of contemporary democratic society.

The Policy Institute at Trinity College Dublin has just published a report on this topic. The report, entitled The Lottery as a Democratic Institution was officially released in July 2013. It was co-authored by Gil Delannoi (fellow of the Centre de Recherches Politiques and professor of political theory at Sciences Po, Paris), Oliver Dowlen (who holds an ISRF Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary College, University College London), and Peter Stone (Ussher Assistant Professor of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin). Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention: citizen-oriented political reform in action

Declaration of interest: I am one of the members of the academic team advising the constitutional convention on its work programme.

The Irish Constitutional Convention is most of the way through its work programme. Many journalists and other commentators were  critical of the Convention when it was launched. But among those who have witnessed its proceedings the sense is that it has been a success (see, for instance, Harry McGee’s piece).  The Convention’s first report (on voting age and the presidential term of office) was discussed in the Dáil in July, just before the summer recess (see the ministerial statement here) where the government committed to holding referendums on three of the four recommendations made by the Convention and for the fourth item (on giving citizens a say in the nomination of presidential candidates) to be referred to the Environment committee for further consideration — overall, then, a pretty positive reaction by government (so far). Continue reading