The paradox of voting and the ethics of political representation

Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (3):272-306 (2010)

Authors
Alex Guerrero
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Abstract
This paper connects the question of the rationality of voting to the question of what it is morally permissible for elected representatives to do. In particular, the paper argues that it is rational to vote to increase the strength of the manifest normative mandate of one's favored candidate. I argue that, due to norms of political legitimacy, how representatives ought to act while in office is tied to how much support they have from their constituents, where a representative’s “support” is a function of the percentage of adults living in the political jurisdiction who voted for her. In a representative system, whether a particular law or policy is legitimate is in part a function of how much support the particular representative government has, rather than simply being a function of the governmental structure or the normative content of the law or policy. Representatives with more support can permissibly act more like trustees (doing what they think is best) and less like delegates (doing what their constituents presently prefer). I argue that this fact provides a reason for individuals to vote, even given the incredibly small chance an individual voter has of casting a pivotal vote.
Keywords voting  representation  paradox of voting  political ethics
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DOI 10.1111/j.1088-4963.2010.01188.x
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