What is sortition?

A way to select. This method uses chance instead of voting – which is the way used in an electoral system – to designate rulers or to decide on a precise issue.

How does it work in practice?

For example, to designate a moderator we cast a die. The n-th person on the caster’s left becomes the moderator, n being the number on the dice.  The exiting moderator casts the dice after twenty minutes, or less if they resign before. Therefore, the power turns clockwise. Throughout history many such uses of chance exist.

Ancient Greeks used it to designate judges. Also nowadays many people use or promote its usage: The sortition Foundation, Ateliers constituant in France or The equality-by-lot blog. The latter suggests we should employ chance to create mini-publics used to deliberate on a precise subject.

What if we designate an insane person?

We can think of ways to end a moderator’s mandate. For instance in a previous version to select a moderator, if a third of the assembly put their thumb up the moderator’s mandate terminates. The unique and time limited mandate also plays a role in avoiding dictatorships. This kind of counter-measure exists in an elective system but is seldom used. A sortition based system would used them extensively.

What if we select an incompetent person?

The answer to the previous question might also apply here. We can add that the sorted people can call for experts on precise subject for a specific time period.

Why and when should we use sortition instead of elections?

We can use chance in numerous cases. It, however, should not replace elections but complement it. There are also apolitical uses for sortition like dealing with a queue or within education.

P.S: this post originally comes from www.stochocratie.org, if you want to add questions or responses to this FAQ, I’ll be happy to read them.

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