Constitutions and Bills of Rights: Invigorating or Placating Democracy?
Forthcoming in Legal Studies
30 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017
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
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