Indirect Elections as a Constitutional Device of Epistocracy

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Recent political events around the world have led some to advocate replacing democratic institutions with an “epistocracy” (rule by the competent). Offering a historical perspective on this debate, this article explores the neglected constitutional device of indirect elections and its use as an epistocratic mechanism. These are elections where representatives are selected by intermediary electors, rather than directly by voters. Drawing on the United States and India as case studies, I argue that such elections were historically defended as epistocratic mechanisms, aimed at securing the selection of representatives with superior virtue or ability. The epistocratic case for indirect election, however, attracted critics in both countries. While such critics presented a compelling case against the reliance on indirect election to select superior legislators, their arguments generated a further dilemma, opening representative democracy itself—direct and indirect—to challenge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-111
JournalInternational Journal of Constitutional Law
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Apr 2022

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