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Working Paper

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Democracy -- United States -- Citizen participation, Hanford Site (Wash.) -- Government policy, Local government -- Citizen participation, Bureaucracy, Political participation


Highly technical policy decisions present daunting challenges for democracy. In order to hold public officials accountable, citizens must be able to see how policy decisions stand to affect their interests. If they are unable to do so, they can find themselves exposed to bureaucratic domination through the discretionary power of bureaucrats, scientists, or policy experts. One of the major tasks of empirically informed democratic theory is to analyze and evaluate practices and institutions that use public participation to try to render highly technical public decision-making more accountable to the public, and therefore more legitimate. This paper presents a case study of one such institution: the Hanford Advisory Board. The Hanford Advisory Board (HAB) is a broadly representative, deliberative body that provides formal, policy advice on Department of Energy (DOE) proposals and decisions at the Hanford nuclear cleanup site near Richland, Washington. We argue that the HAB offers promising institutional innovations that go some way toward rendering the DOE accountable to the public that is affected by its decisions at Hanford. We explore the HAB?s design and operation using a taxonomy developed by Archon Fung and outline a normative framework for evaluating participatory institutions in contexts such as Hanford. We draw on analysis of formal board advice and interviews with board members and agency officials to analyze the board?s effectiveness.


Presented at American Political Science Association (APSA) 2012 Annual Meeting

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