Expressive Voting

New York University, Vol. 68, 1993

UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 09-14

60 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2009

See all articles by Adam Winkler

Adam Winkler

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2009


This article argues that the Supreme Court's right-to-vote jurisprudence is improperly based on an "instrumentalist" understanding of voting; the right to vote is valuable only to the extent the franchise helps one pursue informed political choices designed to affect government decision making. I argue instead for an "expressive" understanding of the vote in which both instrumental and more symbolic values are recognized. Because voting is not rational as an exercise of political voice, this article contends that much of the value of the right to vote comes from the expression of solidarity with the political community. Voting, in this sense, is important as a means of participation more than simply an exercise of political power. This article sketches out the expressive theory of voting and considers how such an approach would affect major right-to-vote decisions of the Supreme Court.

Keywords: Right to vote, Supreme Court

Suggested Citation

Winkler, Adam, Expressive Voting (April 1, 2009). New York University, Vol. 68, 1993, UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 09-14, Available at SSRN:

Adam Winkler (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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