Institut for Kultur og Læring

Ph.d. defence by Rasmus Uhrenfeldt

Ph.d. defence by Rasmus Uhrenfeldt


02.03.2021 kl. 15.30 - 18.30



An Open Democracy: The Secret Ballot, Privacy, and Democratic Participation


Citizens participate in democratic elections by voting in secret. They are free to vote for their preferred political candidates or party. Some citizens regard their voting-choice as a private issue that others are not entitled to know about. This dissertation examines this foundational democratic principle. It looks into the principled, theoretical, and ethical questions and dimensions that secret voting entails. One foundational issue concerns the separation between political representatives and citizens. When representatives decide on policy issues their vote is public – but why are citizens exempt from this practice? Should we not also hold citizens accountable for their political decisions? This dissertation problematizes the sharp division between representatives and citizens and their respective ways of voting. It also examines a range of other circumstances relating to the issue of secret and public voting. If it is possible to hold citizens accountable for their voting-choices, might this have a beneficial effect on voter behavior? Will voters take steps to inform themselves on political issues if they are required to reveal their voting-choices – and is this even a legitimate way of influencing electors? Finally, the dissertation also looks into pressing issues that relate to technological developments. Huge amounts of data-collection are making it easier to calculate what the political preferences of citizens are – how much of this type of data is it permissible to collect and how does this relate to the institution of the secret ballot?

These issues concern, fundamentally, different philosophical conceptions of how democracies should function, about what is legitimately private and what is valuable about democratic participation. By looking into these central philosophical perspectives it becomes clear why and when voting in secret is valuable but also when and why it is problematic.



  • Associate professor Jes Lynning Harfeld, Aalborg University (chairman)
  • Professor Annabelle Lever, CNRS Sciences Po
  • Professor Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Aarhus University


  • Lektor Jørn Sønderholm, Aalborg University



The defence takes place online on ZOOM and registration is required before 2nd March 13.00

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Aalborg University, Department of Culture and Learning



Tilmelding inden

02.03.2021 kl. 14.00

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