Terry Bouricius’s sortition-based government system

David Van Reybrouck presents Terry Bouricius’s proposal for sortition-based government system in an article in De Corresponedent. I don’t read Dutch and the automatic translation is pretty poor, but, if nothing else, the graphics describing the system are very nice. [English version of the diagram added below.]

10 Responses

  1. Terry,

    I have been trying to contact you via e-mail but have had no luck. You can reach me at adrob@rcn.com.



  2. The American researcher Terrill Bouricius has created a blueprint for the future of democracy: no political parties, no elections, even without classical parliament. In my last post in this series I present his inspiring model. And Terrill Bouricius RTE today as a guest correspondent in the debate on this platform.
    It can be a totally different structure of our democracy

    In the spring of 2013, the scientific journal published Journal of Public Deliberation a fascinating contribution Read the piece of the American researcher Terrill Bouricius. Terrill “Terry” Bouricius is an American political scientist and former member of the Vermont House of Representatives (1991-2001). He was a senior policy analyst for Fair Vote, a nonprofit organization that focuses on issues to reform mood. Bouricius, who in a previous life had worked for twenty years as an elected politician in the state of Vermont wondered how feasible proposals As I wrote last week. had to replace a drawn parliament. elected parliament Gave new impetus in the field of support and vigor?
    His question was particularly pertinent. Ideally, you would indeed, as the German professor Hubert Buchstein suggested, drawn a Parliament representative for the whole EU.
    But how many women from a village bakery in Lithuania will close their shop a few years because they have to sit in the House of Lot? Strasbourg How many young engineers from Malta will leave their promising projects for three years, because Europe has been shoot them? How many unemployed people from the British Midlands pub and friends will leave for years to sit tinkering? For acts with strangers And assuming that they even want to do it, they would also do well?
    How many unemployed people from the British Midlands pub and friends will leave for years to sit tinkering? For acts with strangers
    A parliament could be drawn (as representative), but would also work more efficiently? Legitimacy Or will the majority of those chosen at random are all sorts of excuses not to have to think, and thus the parliament yet again a matter of educated men is?
    Strengthen democracy through auctions an assembly sounds nice, but fraught with difficulties. Sjonk Ritmeester, the self-declared and tireless electoral fundamentalist on this platform, wrote last week to one of my pieces draw on, “I should really do not think. My neighbor who just will represent me in parliament, or my sister. Well paid later. ”
    You want everyone to speak, but that you stand to new forms of elitism. How can it be ideal to practice reconciled? That was the question that Bouricius struggled.
    Draw in Athens
    Bouricius returned to the Athenian democracy, studied its effect and wondered how a modern application would look like. Today Typical of the Athenian democracy Read more about democracy here in Athens was that draw was not used for a single institution, but for a whole series, thus a system of checks and balances to achieve: one gelote body kept the other eye.
    “The Council of 500 set the agenda and prepared the bills for the People’s Assembly, but could not vote on laws themselves. A law that was passed by the Assembly could be revoked by the People’s Court, although those courts could vote. “Turn itself does not have laws The decision was therefore spread across different settings. That seems cumbersome, but it had significant advantages found Bouricius:
    “The Athenian separation of powers between different gelote bodies and the self selected participants of the Assembly fulfilled three main objectives that do not have our modern elected legislatures: 1) the legislative bodies represented the civilian population is relatively good, 2) they were highly resistant to corruption and excessive concentration of political power, and 3) the opportunity to get involved and help take decisions were widely distributed among the relevant population.
    Working with multiple gelote bodies brought more legitimacy and efficiency
    Working with multiple gelote bodies ( multi-body sortition in the terminology of Bouricius) gave more legitimacy and efficiency.
    How could something like this work today? In the figure below, I’ve tried to imagine his model schematically. I do that on the basis of his article, supplemented by a previous study View the previous study (and graphics!) and e-mail correspondence with him and his colleague David Schecter.
    Multi-body sortition
    Actually, says Bouricius, need you. Six different organs Why so many? Because you have to try to reconcile. Five conflicting with each other As an expert in the field of democratic innovation, he knows that tough challenges.
    1. You want to draw a large, representative sample creates, but you also know that it is easier to work in smaller groups.
    2. You want a quick spin to encourage participation, but you also know that the longer deliver robust mandates work.
    3. You want everyone who wants to do with it, but you also know that you will get an overrepresentation of highly educated, responsible citizens.
    4. You want citizens to deliberate together, but you also know that over groupthink danger, tend to find too quickly. consensus
    5. You want to give as much power to a drawn body, but you also know that some individuals go too heavy pressures with arbitrary results as a result. the group process
    These five dilemmas knows anyone who has ever worked. Alternative forms of deliberation They are about the ideal size of the group, the ideal duration, the ideal selection method, the ideal method of deliberation and the ideal group dynamics.
    Now, says Bouricius, there is no ideal, but give that quest. You can do much better design a model that consists of multiple organs. Thus, reinforcing the benefits of various options and disadvantages weaken each other. Instead of giving all power to a body drawn legislative work can best be divided in phases.


  3. The second part of the translation:

    1: Determine the agenda

    In a first phase, the agenda should be set. That happens to him in the Agenda Council , a very large body whose members are drawn among those who have registered themselves. The Agenda Council indicates topics, but she does not go out. Citizens who do not belong to that agenda-board but still ask for a specific theme, attention to their petitions assert: when enough signatures is also treated their demand.

    2: To propose

    In a second phase, then come all sorts of Interest Panels in action: that there may be some, but just as good a hundred. Interest Panels are groups of twelve citizens each bill (or a piece of bill) might suggest. They are not drawn and not elected, but have volunteered to about that one subject them to think. In such a panel twelve citizens who are not familiar with each other and pursue a common interest, but it might as well go to a lobby.

    That’s okay: they do not have the last word, and should be aware that their proposal will be evaluated by others. Working with Interest Panels allows experts to join into concrete policy proposals. Their expertise That’s good for efficiency. Suppose that road safety is on the agenda, it would go to neighborhood organizations, cycling groups, busconducteurs, people from the transport sector, parents of damaged children, automobile associations and so on.

    3: Evaluate Proposals

    In a third phase, all these proposals go to a Review Panel . There is one of them. For each policy Proposals for traffic coming over for example, go to the Review Panel that deals with mobility. You can compare it with panels that parliamentary committees. They do not have the right to initiate a law nor ultimately to vote. They merely do the work in between (such as the Council of 500 in Athens).

    On the basis of the input they have received from the Interest Panels, they hold hearings, they invite experts and they go on to design the legislation. Review Panels in all sitting together in the proposal Bouricius hundred and fifty members, drawn from all adult citizens. Participation is not mandatory.

    It is a function with very big responsibility that requires a lot of dedication. The members sit for three years, they work full time, and receive proper compensation, similar to that of a parliamentary salary. The rotation is not done collectively at the end of the ride, but interim, and fifty per year of operation.

    4: Accept or Reject Proposals

    To avoid that all power is concentrated in the Review Panels, there is a fourth, very important organ: the bill is presented to the Policy Jury , the most special organ in the scheme of Bouricius.

    That jury because no permanent members. Whenever there is to be voted on a law chooses the fate hundred citizens to meet. Day In exceptional cases it could be a few days or at most a week to go.

    It is important here that the draw takes place among the entire adult population (not only among those who have made a candidate, for that matter it looks more like a civilian jury in a lawsuit). Who is drawn, it should show up, unless there is a valid excuse. This is important for the representativeness.

    Participants are therefore properly compensated for their presence. The Policy Jury hears the various bills that the Review Panel has drawn up listening to a business presentation of arguments for and against, and then vote on it in a secret ballot.

    There is no no party discipline, no peer pressure, no tactical voting, no political haggling, no friends service: everyone agrees conscience which according to him or her general interest in the long-term best serves. To avoid charismatic speakers affect the mood, the bills presented by neutral employees. Because there is a good cross section of the whole society out, given the decisions of the Policy Jury force of law.

    5 & ​​6: The rules and procedures check

    For everything in the right direction, Terrill Bouricius proposes two additional members for a Council Rules and Oversight Council . Both are re gelote bodies: the first is concerned with the establishment of procedures for the lottery, hearings and votes, the second ensures that government officials follow the procedures correctly and handles any complaints.

    So earlier this two councils perform a meta-political function: they are the authors and the keepers of the rules. The Council Rules could be from people who have served once before in a drawn body drawn, after all, they know the ins and outs of the procedures.

    Efficiency and legitimacy

    What makes this model particularly attractive is the evolutionary nature. Not everything is fixed in advance. “A crucial aspect is that all this only concerns a start design … It will evolve as the Rules Council considers it desirable,” wrote Bouricius in an email. “The only rule I would make permanent the somehow that Rules the council should not donate. Themselves more power Maybe it should be a rule that the new rules of the Council Rules only become effective after the members have been replaced 100 percent. ” So instead of drawing everything out meticulously in advance, he designed a “self-learning” system.

    Particularly in this blueprint is how the eternal quest for democracy – the search for a favorable balance between efficiency and legitimacy – here takes the form of a purely based on lottery system. That citizens may apply for four of the six organs voluntarily, the decisiveness certainly benefit (for Interest Panels they do not even have to be drawn yourself: everyone who wants to can get to work).

    But the ultimate judgment, the last word in the decision rests with the representative sample of the Policy Jury is essential to the legitimacy. Crisp asked: who feels able to serve the society with the opportunity to talk, but it is the community that ultimately decides.

    The proposal Bouricius is particularly inspiring. It shows in provocative manner how democracy can be totally different design

    This balance between support and vigor they had not thought possible in the late eighteenth century. The American and French revolutionaries were able to weighty matters to be left to the people with their choice of an elected aristocracy    Read more about the aristocratic origins of elections they showed efficiency prevail over legitimacy. Today, we pay a price for it. The people murmur. Noisy, the legitimacy of the electoral-representative system in doubt.

    The proposal Bouricius is particularly inspiring. It shows in provocative manner how democracy can be too. Completely different design It is inspired by ancient Athens, but takes the procedures do not uncritically. It is based on recent scientific research on deliberative democracy and experiments with draw, and therefore has the potential pitfalls of specific formulas.

    It designs a system of checks and balances to avoid pitfalls and to counteract. concentration of power And above all it brings politics back to the civilian population: the elitist and utterly obsolete distinction between rulers and ruled void completely. We are back to the Aristotelian ideal of alternating rule and are ruled. This is finally, in the words of Lincoln, government of the peoply, by the people, for the people .

    The future

    How should I proceed? It’s brilliant historical research, political philosophers have performed brilliantly, there is a suite of inspiring examples and there are some sophisticated schemes on the table, which is the farthest that Bouricius. What’s the next step?

    Bouricius’ model is indeed evolutionary, but it begins to evolve once it exists. The transition from the current system to its system should be implemented remains unclear. In an earlier piece written together with his colleague David Schecter he stated that the model in a variety of ways “could be applied: 1. To make (such as a single law British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly

       Here you can find more about it ) 2. To within a particular policy (for example, an area that is so controversial that elected it would rather leave it to the public, or where lawmakers have a conflict of interest relating to the duration of a mandate, salaries or any laws Election Law) 3. To improve the deliberative quality of a citizens’ referendum or 4. To replace an elected chamber of a bicameral system 5. To perform. throughout the legislative process rather than an elected legislature

    And what if we were like five successive steps of a historic transformation could see? Five possible applications Schroomvol start, finish impassioned. Actually, I realized that process in a sense already begun. Phase 1 already happened in Canada. Phase 2 is in full swing in Ireland, particularly in the discussion about gay marriage. Phase 3 has been around the longest. Phase 4 and 5, yes, of course the big challenges, we are still nowhere. For a full implementation of Bouricius’ scheme (stage 5), it is certainly too early. Unless a revolution threatens, political parties will not easily abandon themselves to get from one day to the multi-body sortition possible.

    But for phase 4, the structural involvement of representative samples of non-elected citizens in political decision-making, the time is ripe it gradually. A democracy that consists solely of voters and elected officials, ignores the most essential feature of democracy: the debate among citizens on the future organization of society.

    Read how loot a parliament?

    The time seemed to draw only suitable for dwarf countries and city-states is over. It’s time for gelote parliament. Really? Yes, really. Six Steps to the fastest to get there.

    Read: Red democracy, loot parliament

    Further Reading: four experiments with draw

    The past decade has been much experimentation with democratic renewal through civic participation and draw in four countries: Canada, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the initiatives received little media attention.

    Democratic renewal: it can therefore be

    Further Reading: Why actually draw?

    How do we make our democracy again vital and credible? How do we restore trust between government and citizens? By not only choosing representatives but also lots.

    Read: ten reasons why draw must be entered again

    The problem of election

    In 2014 attracts over Europe back to the polls. But is that still the feast of democracy? History teaches us how democracy becoming a dictatorship of elections has become.

    Learn how elections were verziekingen

    The problem: why the current democracy so tired

    Weird: as democracy tandelozer is, she behaves increasingly vocal. Yawn?

    Read: the democratic fatigue


    What do you think of this blueprint? In what sense this series of columns was helpful to you? Your feedback is very welcome. Me Myself scissors from 9 am on the computer, Terrill Bouricius joins our ranks from 15 hours (he’s six time zones from here). Your contributions, both in Dutch and English. If you Terry and I would like to submit a specific question then put our name in here. See you later!


  4. Here is a summary of Terry’s model, from the web site of the New Democracy Foundation.


    Multi-Body Sortition

    Based on the paper ‘Democracy Through Multi-Body Sortition’ by Terry Bouricius, published to the Journal of Public Deliberation (Vol.9 Iss. 1, Article 11. Available here ).

    This model seeks to divide the activities of lawmaking among several groups with different functions and different characteristics. The members of these bodies would be randomly selected rather than being elected. Some of these bodies would be ongoing (like current legislatures), and others would be temporary (like juries).

    The breakdown by functions are:

    1. Choosing issues: An Agenda Council (selected by lot among interested people, serving 3 year terms, remunerated with salary) decides which topics need new laws. They get ideas for priority issues via several paths: staff, Review Panels, Policy Juries, citizens, and interest groups. An alternative route for initiating legislation is by petition.

    2. Developing bills: Once a topic is selected, there is a call for volunteers for Bill Drafting Panels (12 to 20 members each, mixed by lot or self selected, unpaid, serving just for the duration of the Bill drafting, assisted by Executive staff). Bill Drafting Panels would encourage a range of interests to help draft bills that could hopefully pass review, and ultimately be adopted, by other bodies. If there are many Bill Drafting Panels, there could be a super-majority requirement to advance a bill to the reviewing stage.

    3. Reviewing bills: For each issue area, there is a larger Bill Review Panel, randomly selected drawn from a pool of the willing – however, the issue area they will be assigned to is also randomised. They serve rotating terms of a year or more, so they can develop expertise in their area. Review Panels review draft bills from Bill Drafting Panels, take testimony, hold hearings, amend, combine, etc. and produce final proposed bills by majority vote.

    4. Voting: Each bill is voted on by a one-time Policy Jury which is as descriptively representative as possible. Jury members meet for a day or two, listen to pro and con arguments, and vote by secret ballot, without internal debate, in order to avoid “group-think,” or domination by those with high social status. The secret ballot minimizes the social pressure of voting, and the risk of vote buying.

    5. Oversight: A Rules Council selected by lot handles other meta-legislative tasks (e.g. establishing rules, and overseeing staff who serve Bill Review Panels and Policy Juries). An Oversight Council, selected by lot, handles oversight and evaluation of the executive branch’s implementation of laws.

    This model can be implemented in a variety of ways, ranging in scope from small incremental changes to fundamental basic reforms. For example, a version of this model could be used to:

    a. Make one law

    b. Make any laws concerning a particular issue – for example, a topic that is so contentious that elected officials would actually prefer to delegate it to citizens, or where legislators have a conflict of interest, as in redistricting or electoral law.

    c. Enhance the deliberative quality of an existing initiative and referendum process, or create a new one.


  5. And here is a link to a paper that Terry and I wrote together about the same model – http://stwj.systemswiki.org/?p=1407

    Also, there’s an interesting discussion on this blog of Terry’s model and a somewhat similar model developed by Keith Sutherland – I believe the topic title was “Athenian Democracy Reincarnate.”


  6. Here’s a link to an English translation http://filasophia.com/?attachment_id=1024


  7. Hi Terrill Bouricius,

    You really should read the chapter A Concept for Government from the 1988 published book the World Solution for World Problems:



  8. […] sortation graphic from Yoram Gat’s ‘Terry Bouricius’s sortition-based government system’ posted on Equality by Lot: The blogs of the […]


  9. I was just directed to the London School of Economics review of Reybrouck’s *Against Elections*. My guess is that that review has already been included somewhere in this Equality-by-Lot blog. But I can’t find it, so:


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