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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Democracies at Risk

Political Participation
Section Number
Section Chair
Hanna Wass
University of Helsinki
Section Co-Chair
Jeffrey Karp
Brunel University

Elections are at the heart of liberal democracies but they are not without their problems. Allegations are made about electoral fraud. Fake news is disseminated. Voting rights are suppressed. District boundaries are gerrymandered. Campaign finance provides a skewed playing field for parties. Independent media are muzzled. Citizens are ill-informed about choices. Balloting is disrupted by bloodshed. Official records are hacked. Ballot boxes are stuffed. Vote counts are fiddled. Opposition parties withdraw. Contenders refuse to accept the people’s choice. Protests disrupt polling. Officials abuse state resources. Electoral registers are out-of-date. Candidates distribute largesse. Votes are bought. Airwaves favor incumbents. Campaigns are awash with hidden cash. Political finance rules are lax. Incompetent local officials run out of ballot papers. Incumbents are immune from effective challengers. Rallies trigger riots. Women candidates face discrimination. Ethnic minorities are persecuted. Voting machines jam. Lines lengthen. Ballot box seals break. Citizens cast more than one ballot. Legal requirements serve to suppress voting rights. Polling stations are inaccessible. Software crashes. ‘Secure’ ink washes off fingers. Courts fail to resolve complaints impartially. Each of these diverse problems can generate contentious elections characterized by lengthy court challenges, opposition boycotts, public protest, or, at worst, deadly violence. These problems erode public trust, undermine electoral legitimacy and put democracy at risk.

The Section is organized in collaboration between the Electoral Integrity Project and the ECPR Standing Group on Public Opinion and Voting Behavior in Comparative Perspective. The project "Varieties of Democracy" is organizing Panel 5 whereas Panels 3 and 6 are organized by research projects "Tackling the Biases and Bubbles in Participation (BIBU) (funded by the Academy of Finland) and "Elections GO! (EGO)" (funded by the European Commission), respectively.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P130Elections at Risk: The Dark Side of Political Communication and Mobilisation View Panel Details
P131Electoral Equality at Risk View Panel Details
P268Mitigating Electoral Violence View Panel Details
P403Rising Cynicism and the Participation Gap View Panel Details
P524You Can’t Fool All the People All the Time: Political Trust at Risk View Panel Details
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