Date of Degree

6-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Political Science

Advisor

Stephanie R. Golob

Subject Categories

Political Science

Keywords

Participatory budgeting, Internet Voting, i-Voting, participatory democracy, social justice, New York City

Abstract

In recent decades, political science scholarship—once dominated by elitist conceptions of democracy—has increasingly focused on participatory models which emphasize the normative and instrumental value of enhanced political participation. The emergence of these theories in the latter half of 20th century coincided with the development of innovative institutions of democratic practice. Among these democratic innovations, participatory budgeting is the most widespread mechanism used in contemporary politics. Launched in 2011, participatory budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) seeks to expand civic engagement and make public spending more equitable. As scholars point out, these objectives are not always synergetic, particularly in the presence of Internet voting. Given the rampant digital divide in New York City, its use of online voting to increase PBNYC participation could inadvertently result in the altering of its voters’ demographic profile, increasing the proportion of more affluent social groups who may hold less equitable preferences. This thesis studies the effects of online voting on the equity of PBNYC outcomes. Using data on PBNYC projects obtained through NYC Open Data, this study employs regression analysis to measure the relationship between rates of online participation and PB outcomes directed towards low-income neighborhoods. Although its findings are inconclusive, this study offers analytical and methodological insights into the study of equity in participatory budgeting.

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