Using random selection to populate a citizens’ assembly, parliament, or congress with a representative sample of the population, tasked with making decisions in an informed, calm, and deliberative manner.
Sortition fixes our disengagement with democracy
Making politics more:
Parliaments and congress reflect the diversity of the population. A country in miniature. Everyone in society is given a voice.
Every member of parliament or congress is free to propose, debate, and prioritise issues that are important to them.
Barriers to entering politics are low. A person only needs to be willing to serve. Randomly selecting politicians is quick, easy, and cheap.
Sortition actually solves issues
Politicians have one real job; getting re-elected. Debates happen in a realm of fearful self-interested calculation that is hostile to good decision making.
Randomly selected politicians have one job; making the best decisions. Debates happen in a real of calm, informed, collaborative decision making.
Questions better solved by sortition:
- Is climate change real? If so what do we do about it?
- Should the UK leave the European Union? If so, in what form?
- Should Australia have an Australian as Head of State?
- How do we make housing affordable?
- Should compulsory superannuation be scrapped?
- Should private schools get public money?
- What's a fair tax system?
- How to we tackle obesity?
- What do we value as a people? What type of society do we want?
How it works
Replace how a legislative chamber is chosen now, then move towards multiple sortition-based bodies in the future.
For example, in Australia, using sortition to populate the House of Representatives and the Senate while keeping their powers and functions largely intact.
Who could stand
Any adult citizen who passes the eligibility requirements can nominate themselves. Once a year (on Sortition Day) the random selections are made.
Culturally it would be expected that all citizens nominate (and serve) and least once in their lives.
How people are selected
Stratified random sampling ensures that the assembly members broadly represent the populations demographic composition.
Public is divided into sub-populations based on, for example, gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography. The percentage of assembly seats reserved for a subgroup reflects the percentage of that sub-population. Individuals are then dr awn at random from within these sub-populations.
Handled by an impartial independent entity. In Australia that would be something very similar to the Australian Electoral Commission.
Preventing inappropriate candidates from standing
Being 'crazy', racist, sexist, or overtly bigoted does not preclude someone from standing. It's a free country. If a person passes the eligibility requirements, they can nominate.
Statistically they are likely to be a (very) small minority voice in any assembly, but still representative of some people. Who knows the process might even better them.
Besides, crazy, racist, or sexist politicians (sometimes all 3) already exist in elected assemblies. Being elected versus randomly chosen does not preclude a person from bigotry.
Period of service
4 year fixed terms, with 25% of the political body being replaced every year. I.e. every 4 years there is a 100% turn over in members.
Each member is randomly assigned to one or more policy councils. E.g. Infrastructure, Health, Education, Environment etc.
After 4 years members who are highly rated from performance reviews could nominate again and be given a higher chance of reselection. This is to encourage, and potentially retain, highly effective politicians.
There is a two term limit, after which a member returns to private life or nominates for a different sortition-based body.
There is a two term reset. I.e after 8 years a person may nominate and serve as if they have never previously held office.
Number of assembly members
151, as it is currently but ideally somewhere between that number and 2000, which is the amount at which statistically any poll of members has a variation of plus or minus 1% the population at large.
Everyone in the House of Representatives forms the Government. I.e. every representative, not just the members of the winning political party. All politicians are involved in formulating, debating, and voting on legislation.
Leaders and Deputy Leaders
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are selected from Parliament by popular vote of its members.
Head of State
Australia would have an Australian as Head of State. Distinct from the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government, the Head of State represents the Australian people.
Chosen randomly from a pool of worthy citizens to fixed 4 year terms by an impartial independent entity (e.g. the AEC).
Ministers are chosen by the members of each policy council. E.g. The Infrastructure Council, whose members are randomly assigned, choose from amongst themselves the Minister and Deputy-Minister for Infrastructure.
The Prime Minister and all Ministers form the Cabinet, whose role is to help direct and implement government policy.
Control of the Budget
The Treasurer, the head of the Treasury council, is in charge of the Budget.
How members are removed
Monitoring and evaluating the conduct of politicians would fall to an independent body, say the Australian Sortition Commission or an Oversight Council. They would have various methods at sanctioning and eventually removing individuals who prove to be unfit for office.
Disagreeing with decisions
Write to your representatives. Start a campaign. Protest. Take to the streets. Nominate yourself to serve. All the same options you have now for disagreement still apply.
In an emergency
During an emergency such as natural, financial, or national disasters, or a declaration of war, the government is still in charge of the response, headed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Alternatively Extraordinary Councils could be formed. Small sortition-based groups given broad powers to deal with emergencies on a short term basis and/or tasked with evaluating and leading the governments response.
Sortition has already been successful
Trial by jury
Used every single day in our criminal justice system. Made up of people chosen on a random basis from the general community, responsible for deciding whether or not the accused person is guilty.
Citizens' Assembly & Council in Belgium
A Council deciding topics to be discussed in separate Assemblies throughout the year (multi-body sortition), separate to existing parliament.
Irish Constitution Conventional
Led to the legalising of same-sex marriage and the decriminalisation of blasphemy in the staunchly Catholic country.
Irish Citizens’ Assembly
Reformed abortion law, long considered politically toxic in Ireland.
Do democracy better
Enough doom and gloom. Let’s fix politics with sortition. We’re already using it, we just need more.