Claudio López-Guerra: “The enfranchisement lottery”

Claudio López-Guerra, an assistant professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City, has a new paper, “The enfranchisement lottery“, part of an upcoming book on the right to vote.


This article compares the ‘enfranchisement lottery’, a novel method for allocating the right to vote, with universal suffrage. The comparison is conducted exclusively on the basis of the expected consequences of the two systems. Each scheme seems to have a relative advantage. On the one hand, the enfranchisement lottery would create a better informed electorate and thus improve the quality of electoral outcomes. On the other hand, universal suffrage is more likely to ensure that elections are seen to be fair, which is important for political stability. This article concludes that, on balance, universal suffrage is prima facie superior to the enfranchisement lottery. Yet the analysis shows that the instrumental case for the ‘one person, one vote’ principle is less conclusive than democratic theorists usually suppose.

Keywords: voting rights, mini-publics, citizen juries, deliberation, democracy, lotteries

7 Responses

  1. This review has to do with whhhat?


  2. Pursuing arguments in behalf of an alternative solution to correct election-by-ballot fiascos by VOTING is self defeating. And the One man/One vote nonsense is nothing but the “reason” used to gerrymander district boundaries to guarantee sufficient votes to elect the pre-selected winning candidate.


  3. And the alternative to “one man, one vote” is…what, exactly?


  4. Richard – are you referring to the “2010 review” that I proposed? My intention is to have some kind of a summary of developments over the last year related to sortition and distribution-by-lot, on this blog and elsewhere.

    Harvey, Peter – I think Harvey thinks of the alternative as being true sortition. I agree with Harvey that once we allow the pre-filtering of candidates, all is lost. At this point you have narrowed the field so severely that, no matter how good your selection method is, very little can be expected.


  5. Although it’s not optimal, it does have the huge advantage that the voters are much more likely to take the time to scrutinise the candidates and policies properly, as (assuming there are not many of them) individual votes will make a difference. Under universal franchise, individual votes lose all signifiant causal power, hence the problem of rational ignorance.

    If my memory serves me correctly the constitution of the Venetian republic included an enfranchisement lottery and the republic lasted 1,000 years (until it was toppled by Napoleon) so they must have been doing something right. It’s all in Dowlen’s book.

    The main problem with instituting such a system in large modern states is that the candidates can easily fool the voters by telling them what they want to hear and by the next election it will be a new bunch of voters. In small city states candidates will be known by reputation so it’s harder to manufacture an identity for the sake of the election.

    But if you believe in electing legislators (which I don’t) then it’s an enormous improvement on universal suffrage; the only drawback being, as Claudio points out, that universal suffrage is widely perceived as being “fair”. Of course once you think it through you realise that everyone having just one crumb from a banquet may be fair but it doesn’t stop you starving to death. Much better for the candidates to be properly evaluated by someone like me (randomly selected). I would be happier to be represented by proxy than wasting time casting a vote that will make no difference at all to the outcome of the election.

    So I think this project deserves our support as part of the effort to establish the principle of descriptive representation by proxy. Once that principle has been established it’s a relatively small step from the enfranchisement lottery to the allotted legislature.


  6. for some reason I can’t access the full text via our university’s EBSCO link. Do you know what issue it is in and what the page numbers are? It’s not in the EBSCO toc for issue 4.


  7. […] Saunders wrote a comment on Claudio López-Guerra’s The Enfranchisement Lottery: Combining Lotteries and […]


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