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Constitutional ReferendumsThe Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation$
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Stephen Tierney

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199592791

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592791.001.0001

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Framing the Substantive Issue in Constitutional Referendums

Framing the Substantive Issue in Constitutional Referendums

(p.226) 8 Framing the Substantive Issue in Constitutional Referendums
Constitutional Referendums

Stephen Tierney

Oxford University Press

Referendums are criticized not just for obvious process defects but also on the basis that the subject matter is open to manipulation, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to put a fair question to the people. This chapter addresses this issue, asking what factors contribute to the fairness, and hence the legitimacy, of a referendum question. One issue is the clarity and intelligibility of the questions and the impediments to achieving a clear question. But another equally important concern is that the referendum represents a meaningful choice between options which a plurality of people consider important and worth both deliberating over and voting on. A particular concern is divided societies; the chapter asks whether a referendum is ever appropriate in such an environment and if so what issue-framing and other process factors would be needed for such an act to meet the demands of deliberative theory.

Keywords:   referendums, fairness, legitimacy, divided societies, deliberative theory

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