By Nancy Bordier and Joseph M. Firestone
Most governments claim they are democracies because they hold popular elections. A large majority of their citizens who cast votes also think their governments are democracies.
But there are other criteria besides elections for determining whether or not a country has a functioning democracy — or a failing democracy.
A major criterion, possibly the most important one, is whether voters actually control elections and their legislative consequences.
– Can voters decide who runs for office and set the priorities for the legislation their elected representatives pass if they are elected?
– Can voters freely run their own candidates? Or must they vote for candidates run by intermediaries like political parties or special interests?
– Do institutions like the U.S. electoral college and election authorities place limitations on voters’ ability to run their own candidates by imposing requirements voters find it difficult or impossible to fulfill, such as collecting massive numbers of signatures, paying unaffordable fees, etc.?