Morena allots its candidacies for the multi-member congressional districts reports:

The fortunes of 3000 Morena activists, previously elected in 300 district assemblies, was determined yesterday in a lottery.

In this way the party led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador selected two thirds of its multi-member congressional district candidates.

Afterwards the Morena national council appointed outsiders – academics, human rights defenders, writers and rural leaders, among others – to fill the remaining candidacies.

“We successfully incorporated sortition into the process of selection of candidates. It is unprecedented, never seen in the history of our country,” said López Obrador about the lottery method.

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The Life Course Dynamics of Affluence

A new paper by sociologists Thomas Hirschl and Mark Rank (H&R) on PLOS One casts doubt on the arguments that electoral arrangements in the US place disproportionate power in the hands of a tiny elite of rich citizens, at the expense of the interests of ‘the masses’:

Social awareness of the growing distance between top-level earners versus the rest of the income distribution helped to spark the Occupy movement and focus media attention on economic inequality. Much of the associated rhetoric presumes that the same individuals persist in top-level percentiles, in particular the 1 percent. This presumption is erroneous to the extent that year-to-year mobility functions to turnover incumbents. To the extent there is turnover, then this functions to buffer inequality, e.g. take the hypothetical case of 100 percent annual turnover within the composition of the top 10 percent, creating the condition of no inequality at this percentile level when measured across a decade. This study explores this empirical possibility, and other possibilities, by analyzing mobility associated with top-level income in the United States. (p.7)

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How to introduce sortition in policy-making without constitutional change

The salient feature of modern democracy is that those who wield legislative and administrative power are chosen by popular vote in open competition between candidates. In practice the candidates generally present themselves as representatives of a party with a distinct ideological emphasis. Some voters who share a particular ideological position will normally support the same party, though they may disagree on many matters of policy. Others, less ideologically committed, are “swinging voters”, taking a more pragmatic view of which party to support. In either case, voters are constrained to chose between packages of personalities, policies and promises. The processes by which the parties arrive at these packages are not very transparent and are widely distrusted. For good reason, as I shall attempt to explain.

The alternative I propose is that the policies we adopt in any specific sphere of public decision-making should be determined by bodies that are statistically representative of those most directly affected by what happens in that sphere. These bodies would have no formal constitutional status. They would depend for their authority on community recognition. We would constrain our elected representatives to activate those decisions in legislation and administration on penalty of not being elected or re-elected.

Instead of being consumers faced with a choice between packages over whose contents we have little influence, we forfeit any attempt to impose an ideological flavour on the whole range of public decisions and concentrate on getting sound decisions in those matters that affect us most. The focus of these bodies would be on specific problem areas. There would be no attempt to prescribe for every possible eventuality. The whole would be treated as an ecosystem that mostly looks after itself, as various interactions adapt to eacn other. It is far too complex and unpredictable to be planned, but its stability and development are constantly being threatened by various human activities that may need to be regulated or eliminated.
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Why women fail to take an equal share of top posts in academia

Here’s a nice piece in today’s Irish Times, showing clearly the need for lottery selection in jobs.

It asks the question: Why women (despite being over 50% of the faculty staff) fail to take an equal share of top posts in academia?

You can read the article in full (and for free!) at

In the comments section we the usual reaction to any suggestion of ‘affirmative action’

“Here we go, more feminist claptrap. All academic posts must be based on merit.”

To which a wise commentator replies: “You think merit has much to do with academic appointments? There’s usually an assessor’s box called suitability which you can fill with subliminal prejudices: plays golf, politics, sounds like me etc”.

While waiting for grand schemes of sortitionist democracy to be implemented, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of genuine equality based on lottery selection over the qualified candidates?

Docksey: Has Democracy Gone Missing? Or was it ever here?

Lesley Docksey writes in the Dissident Voice:

With a general election looming in the United Kingdom and Spain possibly following Greece’s revolt against austerity later this year, we need to think, not just who or what we are voting for, but why we should vote at all.

People are suffering from a deficiency which is as unbalancing as a hormone or vitamin deficiency. What we are severely lacking in is democracy. Many of those pondering on the state of politics feel unhappy and somehow depleted. They haven’t yet realised it is democracy that’s lacking because they have believed what so many politicians have told them, over and over again:

We live in a democracy. Now exercise your democratic right and vote for us.

But what is the point of voting if, no matter who you vote for, what you get is the same old, same old?

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Sortition discussion at Occupy Democracy: Inequality and Representation

The Sortition Foundation will be holding a discussion on sortition at Occupy Democracyod-february-flyer: Inequality and Representation this weekend.

When: 4pm, Saturday 14th February

Where: Parliament Square, London

More info: Occupy Democracy 14-15 February Programme


Come along, invite your friends!

“There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.”

As Time magazine reports, low voter turnouts worry some people:

In Los Angeles, as in many cities, voter turnout for local elections tends to be pathetic. In 2013, only 16% of registered voters weighed in on an election that would help determine the city council, mayor, school board, and a potential tax increase. In other words, 84% of registered voters didn’t bother to vote. And the number of potential voters is much higher, of course, since plenty of eligible voters aren’t registered.

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Down with Elections! Part 6: conclusion


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


The Mandate

One of the justifications claimed for elections is that they are the only mechanism by which the citizens give a mandate to those who govern them. “We can’t just leave choosing our representatives to chance. When we vote, we give the winning candidate a mandate.”

But who actually gives this mandate? Surely not those who vote against the winners. And not those who don’t vote, for whatever reason. So it must be those who vote for the winning candidates? Suppose you vote in an electorate where your candidate wins by a handsome margin. If you hadn’t voted at all, he would still have won. If you had voted for another candidate, once again, he would still have won. In short, your vote made no difference at all. How then can you say that you have had even the tiniest part in giving that candidate a mandate?

Only if the other voters are so divided between candidates that your vote is the deciding one, can you be said to have made a difference, and then, of course, you are in a sense a “dictator”, as the political scientists put it when speaking of this problem. In saying this, I’ve assumed a winner-takes-all, first past the post system. Is the situation different in a proportional or a preferential system? Not really. Most of the time, your vote makes no difference at all. And the statement that “we can’t leave choosing our representatives to chance” – as though chance plays no part in elections – is just laughable.

Overheard in a pub in Godelpus:

(Yes, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Two men sat down at the next table.

“I didn’t catch what you were saying about a mandate” said one.

His friend took a deep swig of beer before replying. “It brings back painful memories”, he said, slowly. “I don’t know if you remember when Harry Bolt got elected?”

“That was that very close election, wasn’t it?”
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Morena has selected its pool for sortition of congressional candidates

The Informador reports:

Morena chooses three thousand applicants to draw nominations
Party leader Marti Batres says district assemblies concluded without incident

MEXICO CITY (01/FEB/2015) The leader of the National Regeneration Movement party (Morena), Marti Batres, said that on Sunday 300 district assemblies concluded “without incident” the selection of three thousand applicants for the 200 slots of candidates for multi-member district deputies.

Among those elected, five men and five women from each of the 300 constituencies, there are housewives, students, professionals, retirees, workers, merchants, scholars, indigenous people and peasants, said Batres.

All those will participate in the February 23rd allotment process (sortition) for nominating candidates to multi-member electoral districts, Morena’s method to select its candidates.

More about Morena’s sortition process here.

Down with Elections! Part 5


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6


The “Loose-Leaf” Approach

I have touched on the fact that elected politicians may become “locked into” a bad policy. (see §20 above) It is not simply a question of damage to the ego, or the embarrassment of publicly changing their stance after several TV or newspaper interviews. There may be the inertia of a whole political and publicity machine brought into being to push a policy which was once thought to be important for gaining office, and which later turns out to be doubtful or disastrous. (Examples include climate change denial, the “war on drugs”, and the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.)

Changing policy means that the whole team of bullocks: tame journalists and editorialists, other politicians of the same party, public relations staff, and grass-roots party members have to change direction as well. A large part of the public may need to be convinced, not only of the need for the change, but also of the politicians’ sincerity in advocating first one policy, then another. Some sources of party finance may dry up overnight and other sources may have to be found. To make the change, some heads may have to roll, and there will not be many volunteers to rush in to make the sacrifice. All this is risky politically, and time-consuming.

An Assembly chosen by lot will not suffer from these disadvantages, of course. Members will be quite free to change their minds, and in any case, with a secret ballot, there is no need for anyone else even to be aware of a change of mind. This will permit errors of judgement to be quickly corrected, and policies which are no longer desirable because of changed circumstances to be altered.
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