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Home arrow Political science arrow Evaluating Democratic Innovations: Curing the Democratic Malaise?

Bottom-up innovation

Democratic innovations of the bottom-up kind are primarily concerned with (1) enabling those citizens who are already involved and interested to play a more proactive part in public affairs, and (2) improving the capacities, knowledge and participation of others so that they, too, can play a fuller citizenship role. Bottom- up innovations focus heavily on the inputs of citizens into the political system and owe a lot to the interest in direct democracy, which emerged in the 1960s, and later appeared in the writing on strong democracy (Barber 1984) and the post-materialist culture (Inglehart 1997; Inglehart and Welzel 2005). They differ from top-down innovations in that they seek to improve the quality and increase the quantity of mass participation and strengthen its direct-democratic nature. For practical purposes, the long and varied list of innovations of this kind can be grouped according to their primary purposes under five general headings.

Voting and elections

Concern with falling turnout and increasing voter alienation has led to suggestions and experiments with all stages of the electoral process, from voting qualifications and registration, to types of voting systems, quota rules and allocated seats for special groups. The list includes: reducing the voting age; universal citizenship; race conscious re-districting; making voter registration easier; kerbside voting and registration; electronic voting; early voting; postal voting; compulsory voting; cumulative voting; positive abstention; quota rules; shared mandates; variable thresholds; electoral quotas; reserved seats for minorities.

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