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The Psychology of Enfranchisement: Engaging and Fostering Inclusion of Members through Voting and Decision-Making Procedures


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Celia Gonzalez, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 [e-mail:].


Democratic systems have many advantages. They elicit perceptions of appropriateness and legitimacy, they engage the psychological investment and commitment of those participating in the system and invite the voluntary cooperation of these persons. We argue that these advantages are conferred in large part through two features of democratic institutions and societies: the participative nature of procedures used to elect leaders, and the fairness of decision-making procedures used by these leaders once in power. In particular, we emphasize the capacity of these procedures to engage community members and foster their inclusion, because they convey that members' concerns are taken seriously and that they are valued by the group that developed and employed those procedures, as well as by the leaders that utilize them. Implications for creating a sense of social inclusion in members of the population, and for encouraging public confidence among those who feel marginalized, in climates of distrust, and during times of crisis are discussed.