Constitutions and Bills of Rights: Invigorating or Placating Democracy?

Forthcoming in Legal Studies

30 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017  

Brian Christopher Jones

University of Dundee

Date Written: September 4, 2017


Champions of constitutions and bills of rights regularly portray them as possessing significant, sometimes mysterious, powers. One characterisation is that newly implemented constitutions may invigorate a democracy, particularly at the ballot box. This article challenges that notion. In particular, it examines a number of jurisdictions that have recently implemented constitutions and bill of rights, finding that in many of them, voter turnout decreased after passage, sometimes significantly. As the argument for a codified British constitution endures, the findings of this paper provide provisional evidence that those advocating for such a device should be wary of touting its potentially invigorating democratic effects. Ultimately, however, the article calls for more research into the area of constitutions and democratic performance, such as voter turnout.

Keywords: constitutions, bills of rights, voting, voter turnout, democracy, constitutional amendment, written constitutions, unwritten constitutions, HRA 1998

Suggested Citation

Jones, Brian Christopher, Constitutions and Bills of Rights: Invigorating or Placating Democracy? (September 4, 2017). Forthcoming in Legal Studies. Available at SSRN:

Brian Christopher Jones (Contact Author)

University of Dundee ( email )

Dundee, Scotland DD1 4HN
United Kingdom

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