Shallit: The Sortition Solution

Mathematician and professor of computer science Jeffrey Shallit has a post on his blog in which he advocates for sortition. Some excerpts:

The US political system is clearly broken. … Proportional representation is often proposed as a solution to some of these problems. … But this doesn’t resolve the corruption and tribalism problems…

My solution is exotic but simple: sortition, or random representation. Of course, it’s not original with me: we use sortition today to form juries. But I would like to extend it to all legislative bodies.

Here is a brief outline of how it would work. Legislators would be chosen uniformly and randomly from a universal, publicly-available list; perhaps a list of all registered voters.

In each election period (say 2-5 years), a random fraction of all representatives would be completely replaced, perhaps 25-50%. This would allow some institutional memory and expertise to be retained, while insuring that incumbents do not have enough time to build up fiefdoms that lead to corruption.

Sortition could be phased in gradually. For the first 10 years, sortition could be combined with a traditional electoral system, in some proportion that starts small and eventually completely replaces the traditional electoral system. This would increase public confidence in the change, as well as avoiding the problem of a “freshman class” that would be completely without experience.
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Sortition, a play by Selina Thompson

Sortition, a new play by Selina Thompson, is described as follows:

A century after Parliament gave the first women the right to vote, Selina Thompson’s provocative new work turns this moment of democratic history on its head. Sortition is produced by and with Britons under the age of 30 who have never voted and have no intention of voting – ever.

Developed with non-voters from across the UK, along with a team of political provocateurs, experts and troublemakers, Sortition imagines what the country would look like with representatives selected not by election but by lottery – at random. Thompson considers the distinction between using your own voice and electing someone to speak for you in a work exploring how young people make themselves heard in Britain today.