Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Raymond J. La Raja

Second Advisor

Brian Schaffner

Third Advisor

Matt Streb

Subject Categories

American Politics


When the federal government fails to provide guidance, or takes positions citizens disagree with, the importance of having strong, responsive local political institutions increases. As a result of either longstanding tradition or political reforms, a number of subnational political institutions now include elements of participatory and direct democracy in an effort to cure perceived democratic deficits. In my research, which uses a comparison of traditional, New England (representative) town meetings to city councils, I address the question of how the choice between using large, participation-oriented representative institutions and smaller legislative assemblies affects citizen participation and representation in local politics. My findings demonstrate that though the motives to include elements of direct and participatory democracy in local institutions may be pure and intuitive, communities that use these elements and have large legislative assemblies may in fact impose greater barriers on citizens, resulting in lower and more biased electoral turnout and representation than in comparable communities that use more conventional, smaller legislative bodies.