Sebastián Linares: El sorteo de cargos públicos: un método para mejorar la democracia

Sebastián Linares writes in Con Distintos Acentos (Google Translate with my touch-ups):

Lottery for public office: a method to improve democracy

The concept of democracy has been associated, in different historical periods, with two very different methods for selection of public officials and accountability: the popular election of representatives and sortition (drawing names at random). In the last two hundred years democratic theory has assumed that the only democratic method to choose public officials is the election of representatives by popular vote. However, from its origins in Athens (435 BC) until well into the nineteenth century, the concept of “democracy” used to refer to the use of sortition for the selection of public officials (Manin 1997).


No doubt, in terms of institutional design, there are deep disagreements over how to use sortition and for what purposes. However, these disagreements are comparable to those found in traditional democratic theory when deciding the best electoral design. And, although political scientists disagree about the best combination of the elements of an electoral system (district magnitude, seat allocation formula, electoral barriers, formulas for reelection), at least all agree about using an electoral system. For the same reason: even if we disagree about the best way to implement sortition, and why, today it is very difficult to deny that sortition is a useful tool for enhancing democracy. It is disconcerting that sortition has disappeared from the public and academic debate in Latin America. It’s time to rescue it from oblivion.

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