Political participation and E-Petitioning

Under the professional mentoring of Dr. Bruce Wilson, Ross Cotton successfully pursued a rigorous course of research resulting in the peer-reviewed publication of his article, “Political Participation and E-Petitioning: An Analysis of the Policy-Making Impact of the Scottish Parliament’s E-Petition System.” The piece will be printed in the University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal.

Worldwide, representative democracies have experienced declining levels of voter turnout, lower membership levels in political parties, and apathy towards their respective political systems. E-democracy, specifically e-petitioning, has been touted as a possible solution to this problem by scholars of electoral systems. In 1999, the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time in nearly three hundred years, and set out to innovate Scottish politics by launching the world’s first online e-petition system.

The Scottish Parliament’s e-petition system serves as a litmus test to see whether it offers an effective medium for increasing public political participation, and whether it can be replicated in other democratic countries. This study collected data from the Scottish Parliament’s e-petitioning website, which hosts the e-petitions and details of who signed them, each e-petition’s path through Parliament, and other important information.

The success of an e-petition is highly subjective due to the original petitioner’s desired goals; therefore, a data analysis and two case studies are utilized to evaluate the system. Results suggest that the Scottish Parliament’s e-petition system has engaged Scots in the political process, giving them a medium to participate in policy formulation and to produce tangible changes in policy through their e-petitions.

You can read the entire piece here.

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