7-minute presentation from Common Lot Productions

Using the ’20-20′ discipline as presentational format (i.e., 20 panels, each strictly 20 seconds long), “Next Step for Democracy: A Government BY the People” explains why sortition is — as Aristotle said of the first democracy — the defining hallmark of democracy … and why elections are the hallmark of oligarchy.

Next Step for Democracy” is a plea for a government by the people, all the people.

See the video at www.TheCommonLot.com

9 Responses

  1. I’m confused as to why you claim that constitutional amendment would be unnecessary for a citizen legislature. At the moment, the Constitution requires selection of House members “by the people of the several states,” which pretty clearly means election.


  2. GREAT. Low key, thought provoking, and enough unique talking points to quicken the curiosity of those who question the present system of elections but have never heard of, much less, considered a superior alternative with historical roots exists. The time for a comprehensive book on the subject is overdue. hdh


  3. Peter — The US Constitution reads: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members CHOSEN every second year by the people of the several states….”
    It does not say ‘elected’. Others have agreed with me that the Constitution leaves it up to the states to decide how their people CHOOSE. They could choose through sortitional selection.
    Granted, this may be challenged in the courts. The ’20-20′ format I chose requires concision, engenders provocation, and is primarily intended for follow-up discussion.
    (I didn’t have time, for instance, to delineate that ‘not requiring a constitutional amendment’ would apply only to choosing members of the House. To change the Senate would require a constitutional amendment.)

    Harvey – Thank you for your appreciation. The book has been written by, among others, Peter:
    A Citizen Legislature/A People’s Parliament (Luck of the Draw: Sortition and Public Policy) by Ernest Callenbach, Michael Phillips, Keith Sutherland and Peter Stone (Aug 1, 2008)


  4. In what sense does sortitional selection qualify as “choice”? That would be saying that choosing from a menu in a restaurant is the same thing as being allocated food at random. If you are referring to the choice to use sortition as a method of selection then this would be (in effect) a constitutional amendment.


  5. I tend to agree with Harvey that a good up-to-date polemic for sortition is needed. A pamphlet series format may be more suitable than a book format, however.

    David – you conveniently omitted the second part of the article:

    The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

    In view of this, it is difficult not to see “chosen” as another word for “elected”. In any case, I think addressing this issue is premature and misleading. When making our arguments, I think we should make it clear that we are discussing a long term process, not a quick fix.


  6. I just re-read my own FAQ on the Common Lot website:
    The First Article, Section Four, of the US Constitution says:
    The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof
    That seems clear a state can choose whatever ‘manner’ it wishes to hold an election.
    Of course the law is always open to interpretation. But it seems that constitutionally a lottery would be allowed.

    Several states do already mandate a flip of the coin to settle tied local elections.

    Yoram, Keith & Peter … The opinion I have based my assertion on has to do with the U.S.’s federalism — issue of ‘state’s rights’. I and others think Article 1, Section 4 gives each state’s legislature the right to ‘prescribe’ … ‘the MANNER of holding elections’. And I don’t think ‘elections’ necessarily means ‘balloting’ … especially not given the Athenian precedent.
    Nonetheless, I may modify that part of the presentation to make it less declarative and more tentative. Thanks for your careful attention.


  7. David: “And I don’t think ‘elections’ necessarily means ‘balloting’ ”

    Careful. The OED allows that “ballot” includes both election and selection-by-lot, but you can’t turn it round the other way (ballot is the inclusive term, election and selection-by-lot are the sub-terms).

    I agree that federal solutions permit experiments but, ironically, the UK constitution would be more amenable to a sortive alternative, for the simple reason that we don’t have a constitution.


  8. I’ve heard the word “election” used to refer to random selection–e.g., in the title of J.W. Headlam’s book ELECTION BY LOT AT ATHENS. But it would strike me as very weird to say that the people of a state are “choosing” representatives when they pick names out of a hat. I suppose you could try and argue that it’s just an extension of the practice of tiebreaking by lot–which is widely accepted–but it would be a stretch.


  9. It’s not so weird to me to formulate: “We-The-People choose to select our representative by pulling from a hat.” As a matter of fact, a couple of groups I have belonged to *voted* to do just that.

    In practice what I assume will occur in developing the use of sortition is more and more local and regional ‘deliberative democracy’, ‘citizen assembly’ or ‘legislative jury’ events, with increasingly executive (not merely advisory) functions.
    In the course of those developments, juridical interventions will decide how easy or how difficult it will be to institute wider-scale sortition.


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