Democratic innovations are intended to improve democracy. That makes our assessment of an innovation depend on our understanding of democracy, which in turn means that democratic theory has a crucial, guiding role to play. Some innovation scholars seem uncomfortable with this chain of reasoning. Yet the alternative to spelling out what we mean by democracy is a reliance on tacit assumptions smuggled into the analysis. To demonstrate this case, this chapter considers the implications of three major democratic theories (minimal, deliberative and participatory) for our thinking about the merits of deliberative polls and referendums.