Citizen participation is vital to arepresentative democracy; when actively involved, citizens can impact thepolitical process.
There are many different types of citizen participation.Citizens influence public policy and representation by measuring testimony at government hearings,lobbying interactions, letter-writing to representatives, and through socialinteractions. Kevin Barrier has proved this to be true when his effortslimited the amount of construction in his neighborhood. Although voting isonly one example of citizen participation, its effects encapsulate thesignificance of citizen participation in a Representative Democracy. Citizens’right to vote has made a notable impact on American history, influenceddecisions regarding polices, and has determined who’s wants and needs have beenmet. The year 1960 serves as a powerful reminderthat voting can change the course of history. Had one person from each voting place voted differently,Nixon would have been our 35th president instead of Kennedy.
Bychoosing to vote or not, citizens play a significant role in determining theoutcome of elections which”…wields power over the future make-up of the Supreme Court, the fate of theU.S. military, and the outcome of numerous social issues debates.” In otherwords, voting has potential to change the direction of communities, states, andthe nation. Citizen participation in the form of voting determines which groupsof people have more power over the future of America.Since voting can impact the outcome ofelections, citizens’ choice to vote or not has a significant impact on aRepresentative Democracy. Not every citizen exercises their right tovote; although most people have opinions, only those who vote are getting a sayfor who becomes their office officials. Voting is a principle part of citizenparticipation because it prevents minorities from making decisions and policyfor the majority.
Often times, politicians adopt policy positions in responseto those who vote in their elections. If small groups of citizens vote athigher rates, it is possible their policy decisions will be favored. Citizenparticipation, or absence of participation, can determine who’s wants and needsare being considered during the process of decision making. This can lead to bias,especially in local government. Typically, local governments have lowerturnouts than in national elections.
Therefore, there is greater potential forturnout bias than there is in national elections. Say for example in a localgovernment, seniors voted at high rate. They may not be the majority; however,their high voting rates could help them influence public policy in their favor.In the United States, over half of public spending is in local or stategovernment. Turnout bias could potentially influence where the spending goes.If we continued the example, it is likely that a large proportion of thespending would be in favor of the elderly, whose policies were adopted by thepolitician they voted for. Voting is an important right of each citizen, and itcould prevent turnout bias. Without voting, policies would only represent theopinions of a small proportion of citizens, and not the entire population.
If not given a balanced understanding of thecommunity’s views, decision makers might not make the best decision for thecommunity as a whole. Consider the expression “the squeaky wheels get thegrease”. The minority may have the louder voice and the opinions of themajority may not be equally represented. If citizens participate (even if theydon’t share the popular opinion) there is a greater chance that the finalproduct will address some of the concerns of other groups.”By voting, you are making your voice heard andregistering your opinion on how you think the government should operate.” Citizensdecide who represents them in government, which has a tremendous impact ontheir lives. In a representative democracy, the government impacts the healthcare, safety and education of citizens.
Decisions regarding topics such asthese affect every citizen; therefore, it is their right to have a say in whowill head the government at the national and local levels. Active citizens whovote have the potential to help elect a leader whose beliefs and morals matchup with their own. Say for example you believed taxes should be lower, you canvote for a candidate who promises tax reduction. If elected, the leader onevoted for can help shape the government to their liking. Although there are many differentforms of citizen participation, its impact on a Representative Democracy iscaptured by the effects of voting.