Article The First: Beyond Elections But Lessons From Them

[Disclaimer: I did not intend to write this blog this early.  I’m still caught up by Canadian provincial efforts at electoral reform, of which I’ve posted on  That said, an article on Jacobin compelled me, so to speak.]

Article The First: Beyond Elections But Lessons From Them

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.” (Article The First)

Tom Malleson’s article on Jacobin, Beyond Electoral Democracy, suggests the implementation of a bicameral legislature, with one of the two bodies being selected entirely by lot.  I would argue that this article doesn’t go far enough, firstly and most importantly because there are no direct proposals for controlling the standards of living of representatives, and because there is not even one path, let alone multiple paths, for instant recallability (Paul Lucardie’s “Jacobinland” and genuine Socialist Politics 101).

Other than this shortcoming, the article doesn’t go far enough because, despite the laudable goal of going beyond elections altogether, there are lessons that can be learned from them: particular features.  The main body for public policymaking and accountability should already be populated by lot, but particular features from various electoral systems should be incorporated.

The first, most important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is the party concept.  “Party-recallable” checks on legislators by political parties is the apex of this.  It is no coincidence that historians have written about correlations between vibrant civil societies at large and vibrant party systems, such as in Europe.

The second important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is proportional representation:

“Proportional representation, and, until this is introduced, legal redistribution of electoral districts after every census.” (Erfurt Program)

Basically, political groupings should have as many seats in the main body for public policymaking and accountability as their society-wide popular vote.  Closed-list proportional representation is an active combination of the two features above.  Random selection advocates such as Moshe Machover have advocated the implementation of random balloting as a means of marrying both features above in a non-electoral setting.

The third important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is the Condorcet criterion.  That is, the winning candidate should always be the one that would win a majority of the vote in all of the head-to-head elections against each of the other candidates.  The Schulze method is one method that meets this criterion.

The fourth important feature from electoral systems that must be incorporated is preferential voting or ranked voting.  Plurality voting is only appropriate when there are two candidates, yet has shown time and again that it may not necessarily reflect the popular vote.

After these first four universal features, what follows depends on whether district representation is necessary or not.  Historically, the use and abuse of this has led to gerrymandering and other redistricting garbage.  However, as political science models and history have shown, district representation can have the most progressive potential in the form of mass-movement councils.

The conditional feature from district-based electoral systems that must be incorporated is that of multi-member district or geographical constituencies.  Single-member district or geographical constituencies should be kept to an absolute minimum (i.e., small rural areas).  Single transferrable vote is an active example of this principle, as multi-member districts increase proportionality.  A district magnitude, or number of seats per multi-member district, of seven seats or higher, have optimal proportionality.

Large Body Model

Article The First would not have been cited if a proposed main body for public policymaking and accountability weren’t large.  The proposed model below assumes the presence of district representation.

Features 1 and 2: The main electoral model to adapt for post-electoral purposes is Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP).  Above and beyond the district seats, additional seats are available for allocation to competing political groupings, such that the combined number of seats for any grouping is reflective of the popular vote.

The political groupings themselves should be required to implement random sortition or random balloting, something which is not mentioned above but is necessary to popularize the transcending of elections.  [I am uncertain on whether the required internalized random selection would be classified as open-list or closed-list.  Individual components of the list are not chosen by the voters, yet they are also not chosen by the political groupings after the initial list presentation.]

Features 3, 4, and 5: The vast majority of the district seats should be organized into multi-member districts, each with seven seats or more.  The underlying principles of single transferrable vote, ideally those of Schultz STV or Comparison of Pairs of Outcomes by STV (CPO-STV), should be applied.

Any districts that require single-member arrangements should be required to apply the Condorcet criterion in determining the winning candidate.

Bicameral Arrangements?  “So-Called Judges”?

While the model above works best for a unicameral arrangement, there is the possibility of a bicameral one, but this must be designed carefully.

There is the possibility of designing a bicameral arrangement in which both bodies are organized on the principle of random selection.  However, the second body should, instead of being a timid demarchy pilot, be a rethink of the concept of judicial review.

Once upon a time, only one man in the United States performed the precedent of today’s judicial review: the President himself.  The presidency did not have many of the “politicized” powers it has today, and so the occupant decided on the constitutionality of bills passed by both houses of Congress.  Back then, the Supreme Court was merely the highest court of non-constitutionality appeals (for criminal law and civil law).

Things changed.  There emerged the imperial presidency, which expanded the bounds of the office.  Meanwhile, the concept of legislation by the bench became exercised by judges of both mainstream political persuasions; over time, judges became “so-called judges” with no political accountability whatsoever.  What to do?

Perhaps any second body in a bicameral setup should be the constitutional court itself.  This would mean, of course, that any so-called “supreme court” would diminish into a supreme court of non-constitutionality appeals.  The second body would be selected by lot, would be stratified or qualified to consist exclusively of judges, and would be politically accountable to the population at large (i.e., random selections and recalls).  Of course, such a body would be prevented from vetoing aspects of fiscal policy and monetary, from getting involved in questions of war and peace, and from participating in various other areas of public policymaking.

3 Responses

  1. Jacob,

    I don’t understand your post.

    Elections are inherently oligarchical. Why would we want to adopt features of this anti-democratic system?

    If there are to be parties, how are they to be governed?

    What makes an allotted delegate recallable by a particular party?

    Sortition is proportional by nature, so what do you mean by the need for proportional representation?


  2. Jacob,
    Your list of desired characteristics of the ELECTED chamber in a bicameral system is internally contradictory. it is impossible to embrace BOTH proportional representation AND the Condorcet principle (that whichever candidate would win a majority in a series of pairwise comparisons of all candidates should win). Proportionality requires that candidates with only minority support be elected in proportion to their party’s percentage of the vote (or similar dynamic in a candidate-based single transferable vote scheme), and therefore must NOT be required to achieve a Condorcet majority. However debating people’s preferences about the details of a hypothetical reformed electoral system is not the purpose of this Blog.


  3. Yoram, the blog was quite meant for a sortition discussion.

    I stated above what I meant by proportional representation: candidate groupings should have as many seats in the main body for public policymaking and accountability as their society-wide popular vote.

    If the ranking of the lists were to be based on sortition, then voters could still rank their preferred candidate groupings. PR systems with minimum thresholds currently don’t have ranked voting, so those who vote for Pirate Parties and the like can’t rank an alternate grouping.

    Now, internal governance should be traditional. However, bigger organizations should incorporate sortition.

    Regarding recallability by the party (and by other avenues such as popular recalls), I mean the usual internal means; executive committees and disciplinary bodies in between congresses, and congresses themselves.


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