Qualified for Power? On Epistemology in Voting

DOI: 10.4236/ojps.2015.53022   PDF   HTML   XML   3,967 Downloads   4,593 Views  


Equal distribution of suffrage is given a nearly “quasi-religious” status by democrats. However, the right to vote rests on a presumption of capacity, and knowledge and competence therefore are important features of democratic arrangements. Democratic theory often assumes that, in order for (representative) democracy to work properly, the average citizen should be interested in, and pay attention to, politics. In reality, however, only a minority of citizens live up to these standards. This paper examines whether demands of uncontroversial knowledge, that is, knowledge about what it means to vote, can be demanded of voters in order for them to be allowed to vote. It is concluded that, for reasons of justice and “issues of mutual concern”, such demands can be raised regarding such uncontroversial knowledge (but perhaps not for knowledge more controversial in kind).

Share and Cite:

Wiman, S. (2015) Qualified for Power? On Epistemology in Voting. Open Journal of Political Science, 5, 210-218. doi: 10.4236/ojps.2015.53022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Arendt, H. (1990). Philosophy and Politics. Social Research, 57, 73-103.
[2] Arnold, J. R. (2012). The Electoral Consequences of Voter Ignorance. Electoral Studies, 31, 796-815.
[3] Brennan, J. (2009). Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 87, 535-549.
[4] Brennan, J. (2011a). The Ethics of Voting. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
[5] Brennan, J. (2011b). The Right to a Competent Electorate. The Philosophical Quarterly, 61, 700-724.
[6] Caplan, B. (2007). The Myth of the Rational Voter. Why Democracies Chooses Bad Policies. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
[7] Christiano, T. (2001). Knowledge and Power in the Justification of Democracy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79. 197-215.
[8] Cofsky, K. (1996). Pruning the Political Thicket: The Case for Strict Scrutiny of Sate Ballot Access Restrictions. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 145, 353-421.
[9] Estlund, D. (2008). Democratic Authority. A Philosophical Framework. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
[10] Feinberg, J. (ed.) (1973) The Problem of Abortion. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Co.
[11] Fukuyama, F. (2006). The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
[12] Grill, K. (2010). Anti-Paternalism and Invalidation of Reasons. Public Reason, 2, 3-20.
[13] Held, D. (2005). Demokratimodeller. Från klassisk demokrati till demokratisk autonomi. Göteborg: Daidalos AB.
[14] Hinrichs, K. (2002). Do the Old Exploit the Young? Is Enfranchising Children a Good Idea? European Journal of Sociology, 43, 35-58.
[15] Hoffman, T. (1998). Rationality Reconceived: The Mass Electorate and Democratic Theory. Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, 12, 459-480.
[16] Jay, C. (2009). Keeping Truth Safe from Democracy. Public Reason, 1, 32-45.
[17] Krouse, R. W. (1982). Polyarchy & Participation: The Changing Democratic Theory of Robert Dahl. Polity, 14, 441-463.
[18] Lau, R. R., & Redlawsk, D. P. (1997). Voting Correctly. American Political Science Review, 91, 585-598.
[19] Lau, R. R., Andersen, D. J., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2008). An Exploration of Correct Voting in Recent U.S. Presidential Elections. American Journal of Political Science, 52, 395-411.
[20] Nathan, H. (2009). An Argument for Voting Abstention. Public Affairs Quarterly, 23, 275-286.
[21] Olsson, S. (2008). Children’s Suffrage: A Critique of the Importance of Voter’s Knowledge for the Well-Being of Democracy. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 16, 55-76.
[22] Schrag, F. (2004). Children and Democracy: Theory and Policy. Politics Philosophy Economics, 3, 365-379.
[23] Somin, I. (2004). When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss. How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy. Policy Analysis, 525, 1-27.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.