Chapter

Local Government and Urban Governance in Europe

Part of the series The Urban Book Series pp 233-259

Date:

Making Informed Citizens in Local Direct Democracy. What Part Does Their Government Perform?

  • Werner PleschbergerAffiliated withUniversity of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Email author 

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Abstract

This chapter has two main parts. First, it starts with a short presentation of the well-established theorem of the uninformed voter, and argues that local direct democracy inhibits systemic incentives for a voter to become more open for information, and for a local government to inform the voter. Due to the information asymmetry, local government is required to actively make the local voter better informed to decide competently on a ballot measure. Local government further has to adopt practical standards to fulfill the task, such as appropriate length, comprehensiveness, objectivity, and political neutrality of voter information. Second, this chapter describes three cases of official local voter information, how they are regulated by law and work in practice. The poor regulation and practice of voter information of the City of Vienna gives the party politics and public officials a very free hand to manipulate the task of informing the voter in their own interests. The Austrian City of Bregenz represents a moderate example, whereas the City of Los Angeles has the merit of a high developed approach of voter information. In all cases, the politicization of voter information is ever present. The gap between practical standards and the real information environment can preclude voters making informed decisions at the polls and indirectly through that also on urban governance.

Keywords

Local government Local direct democracy Voter information Urban governance Austria USA