Two proposals for representative representation

Representative representation: a citizens’ jury appointed by sortition (v 2019.03.11). (For a fuller context, see the paper released by ‘Sortition as a democratic system for the appointment of a real parliament, also called ‘Citizens’ Jury’).


Proposal I: The principle of our proposals is derived from some aspects of the jury in its judicial application. The ‘Legislative Citizens’ Jury’ is only called when necessary and has a short term mandate with the power to make a decision in just one specific case.

During the national elections, voters can allocate a number of additional parliamentary ‘seats’ to a descriptively representative Citizens’ Jury of at least 500 citizens, appointed by sortition[1]. This Legislative Citizens’ Jury will vote, along with the elected parliamentarians, on all bills and proposals for implementing decisions that citizens consider to be of sufficient social importance. A new jury will be summoned for each vote.

Questions and answers

Q1. What does the legislative power look like after summoning a ‘Legislative Citizens’ Jury’?

A1. The Citizens’ Jury presents itself like a ‘party’ in the political structure. The citizen himself determines the balance of power during free elections.

Q2. What does the legislative decision structure look like if the citizens’ jury is not called?

A2. In that case the functioning remains the same as it is now.

Q3. How is the distribution of seats calculated?

A3. There are several possibilities.

An example: During the elections, citizens can vote for a party (candidate) or the Citizens’ Jury. They can also divide their vote between a party and the Citizens’ Jury (to split one’s vote).
Whether this changes the distribution of seats, and thus the balance of power in parliament, will also depend on the number of citizens who previously did not vote or turned in a blank ballot paper and who might now participate as well in the elections.

The distribution of seats would first be calculated for the parties, according to the current calculation system, without taking into account the votes for the Citizens’ Jury. This results in the distribution of seats for the parliament.
Subsequently, the average number of votes necessary to obtain a seat in parliament can be derived from that, after which the ‘additional virtual seats’ for the Citizens’ Jury are calculated.

Q4. How is the Legislative Citizens’ Jury summoned? (*1)

A4. There are 4 possibilities for the summons of the Legislative Citizens’ Jury.

In response to a bill or an implementing decision of the Parliament

In response to a legislative proposal or implementing decision of the Evaluation jury that is also submitted to the elected parliamentarians.

The Agenda Jury is permanently active with a rapidly changing occupation. The Evaluation jury is summoned by a petition.
If the proposal were interpreted more broadly, an extended Evaluation Jury (ref. G 1000), which is convened once a year, could launch its own proposals (see e.g. our ‘two chamber’-proposal at European level).


[1] Pitkin 1967: ‘The third form is descriptive representation and is based on similarity. This form occurs when a person shares ascriptive characteristics with his or her political representative. Ascriptive characteristics are characteristics that are difficult to change, such as race, ethnicity, gender or having the same experiences or common interests. Descriptive representation revolves around the characteristics of a particular group that can be recognized in the representative.’ Also see Samantha Koelewijn (PDF), p. 11, section 2.1.1.

20 Responses

  1. Paul, I’m a bit puzzled by the title — as Pitkin points out descriptive representation is but one variant of the genus “representation”; elected officials represent their constituents, but in a different way.


  2. Paul, this sounds like a complicated way to go where GILT, our “Non-partisan Party” in Austria, is going anyway but without requiring a change in the Constitution: We simply run for the elections and our seats essentially vote in accordance to the outcome of our descriptive “Bürgerparlamente” (citizen parliaments).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. >Keith : This is the first of 7 additional documents to our proposal. We explain the terms used in the next document(s)
    ….We have to stress that representation does not mean automatically representativeness. I can in person and on my own ‘represent’ a whole geographic area but I am not at all ‘descriptive representative’ for this area. Also the claim of ‘geographic and demographic representative’ (for example the ‘Oregon CIR’) has a very limited representativeness and can not be regarded as suitable for legislative uses. It can however be used, if carefully crafted, at the ‘information’ level. (See the Arnstein participation ladder or Archon Fung participation cube)…..

    With ‘representative’ we do mean in our proposal ‘descriptive representation’ without any compromise. What we try in this first document is to show that in our proposal the citizen himself decide how much ‘legislative’ power is assigned to the ‘jury’ appointed by sortition. It can be compared with the creation of a new political party who takes part in the elections but without any program and the jury as the ‘party’.

    This gives the ‘jury’ the necessary legitimacy. The same legitimacy the elected representatives are claiming (I can decide what ever I want because I have a mandate to do so, given to me by the electorate in free elections). By doing so one of the objections towards a ‘jury’ at the legislative level is countered.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. >hubertushofkirchner: yes indeed, it has some resemblance. I studied GILT when it started. It has also resemblance with DEMOEX in Sweden Per Norback wrote a small book of his experiences (The little horse from Athens, he can be contacted also). Our proposal is without the problem that an ‘imperative mandate’ is also not allowed in our constitution and that we have to wait and see what elected representatives, once in power, will do. We don’t have any means to interfere with what ever they decide once elected. It also does not avoid ‘career planning’ once elected. I was once part of a new political party here in Belgium and one of our elected representatives was ‘bought’ away before he even could start. The same thing happened to Demoex as far as I know.


  5. Paul:> With ‘representative’ we do mean in our proposal ‘descriptive representation’ without any compromise.

    OK, but then you are using the word in an entirely different way from everyone else. Pitkin takes an ordinary language approach, and the examples she chooses demonstrate how a person who shares none of the ascriptive characteristics of her clients can still represent their interests in a meaningful way. As such “representative representation” is an empty tautology. It’s really not helpful to invent a private language if you want to persuade people outside of the magic circle.


  6. >Paul: There is no such problem. GILT 2.0 does not require an imperative mandate. GILT candidates for elected positions merely take an oath to disregard their individual self-interest or that of any particular party but to vote their best understanding of the true General Will of the body of citizens (as determined by GILT’s best practice citizen parliaments).

    Our a priori assumption is that – as they will be equipped with the full gamut of pro/con arguments, bull/bear predictions, and a cross-tabbed jury vote – they will enjoy the strongest and most legitimate authority in parliament if they represent the jury’s result as the General Will. Feel free to challenge this assumption on our debate page about “Open Democracy”.

    PS: The career planning aspect also needs a solution, no doubt. F.A. Hayek had some interesting proposals for this part in his “demarchy” proposal (just that aspect, no comment on other elements.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Keith: “…how a person who shares none of the ascriptive characteristics of her clients can still represent their interests in a meaningful way.”

    Party politicians contradict the generality of this statement. There is very real issue of “Fake Representation”, so there is a point in asking for “Representative Representation”.

    Representation as regards to deciding the General Will as a Collective Intelligence is near limitless multi-dimensional task, well beyond sociodemographics but also needs also representativeness for values. The necessity of subject matter knowledge, intelligence, and foresight is another grounds against naive sociodemographic representation as so many sortitionists require. That’s why the lucid Article 6 of the “Rights of Citizens” demanded a distinction by virtues and talents.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ok Keith, no problem to rephrase it in the next edition. It is a translation of a text in Dutch and although I try to read English I am sure that I am wrong in some interpretations and certainly in such a difficult domain. The translation is in most cases done by language students but in the ‘wrong’ direction (from Dutch to English while Dutch is their native language). When I read ‘representative representation’ then this is what I mean to say, in Dutch.


  9. >hubertushofkirchner: In our proposals we used all our own experiences and knowledge combined with all the other proposals we could find and read. I am sure that there are evolutions we missed, things are going fast these days, especially ideas. I am not against the idea of the Imperative mandate but it is a study on his own. Anyway I hope that it has succes, it is what we call ‘a Trojan horse’. If it will be more than a ‘door opener’ and also is capable to govern ‘the town’ after the door is open is left to be seen. But it is one of the only things we can actually do in our electoral system.


  10. Hubertus:> Party politicians contradict the generality of this statement

    My point was about the meaning of the word “representation”, not an assessment of how well (or badly) it is instituted in liberal democracies. Most of Pitkin’s examples are from other domains — e.g. how a lawyer represents the interests of her client.


  11. I think this suggestion has merit, however I think it would be drowned out in environments with high levels of negative partisanship. When society is highly polarized, the members of the citizen jury are likely to align against the party they dislike. Since the permanent party structure still controls the legislative agenda, a vote for the citizen jury simply becomes a kind of wasted vote. I think many voters would not vote for the citizen jury for this reason.

    I think this suggestion would be more effective if it were coupled with a way to wrest the legislative agenda away from the permanent parties, at least in part. I think that is what is hinted at with the last sentence (“an extended Evaluation Jury…could launch its own proposals”); I would like to see more on this idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. >Alex: Yes indeed. Te ‘political agenda setting’ now starts in the evaluation Jury at citizens initiative (by petition, possibility 3) . An expansion would be indeed that the Evaluation Jury also has the power to launch his own proposals. But this short version has to give an idea of how it works. When you look at the ‘evaluation grid’ you will see that the main elements for a democratic instrument are mentioned first, agenda setting, debate, decision.
    Your objection of an ‘a priori’ alignment against a ‘disliked’ party is a possibility that can be avoided if the voting is at the same time (Jury and elected members). The problem there is that if voting of the elected members is adjourned the Jury vote is done. And the elected representatives can make it a game not to vote for all kind of reasons. That is avoided if the Jury is summoned only after the elected representatives have voted. But then your objection still stands.
    What will happen if the Jury votes first? The voting ‘instruction’ (suggestion) from the political parties to the elected representatives will not change I presume. In our political system voting happens in ‘party blocks’, individual rebellion against the party voting instruction is very exceptional (that is a political dead sentence). Maybe absenteeism will be less. Maybe if the vote of the Jury is known in advance the proposition is dropped and maybe amended and launched again later on. Then we have to summon a new Jury. All possibilities have for and against.
    In order to avoid ‘political games’ I think that ‘Jury votes after the elected representatives’ is the best option. If the Jury is descriptive representative it has all the characteristics of common people, aversion against some political parties included (or being in favour). And the claim is that ‘informed people’ have a better chance to make a good decision, well the results of the vote of the elected representatives (and the parties involved) is an information. The key question is: when becomes ‘information’ ‘manipulation’?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Interesting read, Paul. Quite some differences to our GILT protocol in Austria:

    1. Agenda setting: GILT does this prior to elections, through a descriptive citizen parliament. Members get a book of best practice opinion research of citizen satisfaction levels for each govt’ dept, including qualitative reasons. This research is done with an representative panel of n=1000 and an “open” cohort for everybody.

    2. Voting: Our citizen parliaments votes before GILT reps must vote in parliament. The idea is that the force of the General Will so determined (GILT reps can draw on their full results: pros & cons, impact forecasts, and cross-tabbed voting results) will look much stronger versus party reps voting their respective party particular interest.


  14. We keep on pushing :-)


  15. How do you see your chances and how long will it take to get yours realised?


  16. >hubertus: How do you see your chances and how long will it take to get yours realised?

    none, here in Belgium within a reasonable time, but this was not the only aim. There are a lot of proposals launched using sortition who have, in my view, not in any way any democratic value. On the contrary, they have the risk to damage the interesting (democratic) instrument of sortition. Politicians will do anything they can to gain time before they give up some power, if at all. I am defending also the ‘Demoex’ idea (and Gilt and similar ideas) but I have to make a choice to what I devote my time. We had a website when we thought about such an initiative but it is not updated and some links are not accessible any more.


  17. Yes, lots of interesting approaches out there, and it increases the chances that one “sortition entreprener” actually gets his flavour implemented. Let’s all learn from each other.

    BTW: I admire Demoex for their pioneering work but is not the model to follow. Their method was flawed which set them up for ultimate demise. Why? They voted their seats proportionally to the percentage vote result within their own Demoex bubble. Lessons to learn:

    #1. We must determine the one single General Will of the citizenry. Demoex’s position was tantamount to a schizophrenic person who cannot decide what it wants. Therefore, GILT adopts the outcome of the citizen parliament.

    #2. A true General Will can only emerge from truly generalised mini-public, not from the followers of a party. We recruit citizen parliament participants (by sortition) and executive candidates (by venetian elections) from the entire citizenry, even if they do not vote for GILT.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The second document, in fact the first document of the ‘dossier’ at’-representation :

    This document emphasize the importance, not only that sortition is used, but HOW it is used and implemented.

    Dossier ‘Sortition in politics and society’.

    Although sortition has been operative in politics since 486 BC in the Ancient Athens, sortition in Belgium primarily attracted more attention due to the G1000 (*1). All over the world, the sortition system in politics and in society in general has already been working on its return for a while, and both functioning and experimental panels are being set up (*2). As a consequence, an extensive amount of international literature is available.
    The Commission of the State of Washington DC which is responsible for the determination of the salaries of the elected representatives, is an example of a functioning panel which has already been operative for decades. The panel is partially composed by sortition and it was put into operation due to a referendum in 1986 (*3).
    A couple of years after Belgium’s emergence as a nation (1830), sortition was applied to recruit soldiers for military service. This practice remains well known in Belgium due to the novel ‘The Conscript’ by Hendrik Conscience (1850). More recently, the novel has been turned into a movie and it has been translated into English.
    Another practice, which is still operative, is the Jury at the Court of Assize that is appointed by sortition from the list of candidates (*4). This juridical practice is still widely in use in Anglo-Saxon countries.


    The few examples in the introduction demonstrate that it’s not only the use of sortition in the selection procedure for the appointment is important, but also its design and mode of operation.
    The principle of unprejudiced and non-discriminating appointment by sortition in the Belgian recruitment system for military service (1833) was nullified due to the possibility of ransoming the recruitment. As a consequence, only poor people served in the army as soldiers.
    The results of the Commission in Washington ($45,474/year) are to such a degree deviant from the results in the states where the salaries of the elected representatives are approved by referendum, more particularly Arizona ($ 24,000/year) and Nebraska ($12,000/year), that questions about the operation of a panel composed of only a few citizens and experts appointed by sortition (mixed panel) are justified. As a result of this way of operation, manipulation and influence are obvious, the panel is far removed from any descriptive representativeness (image of society) and it doesn’t meet any other criteria concerning the use of sortition in politics or society.
    The application in the juridical system is motivated entirely different and meets different criteria (*5).


    The sortition system in politics must meet the criteria that depend on its application. The participation ladder of Arnstein is presented as a benchmark with a turning point at ‘the legislative decision-making power’ of the citizen on levels 6,7 and 8 (*6). With respect to the latter-mentioned levels, only strict criteria are acceptable. The further one descends into the levels, less tight criteria may be applied that permit more complex, ‘scientifically developed’ applications.
    Care should be taken to avoid that a democratic instrument such as sortition does not turn into the exclusive work area of specialized institutions and companies of which neither independence nor operation, and hence also the results, can be assessed (*7).


    (*1) – G1000 Belgium (2012)

    (*2) – Sortition in politics

    (*3) – (1987) The purpose for creating the Commission was to establish salaries that reflect the duties of the state’s elected officials and to remove political considerations from the process.


    (*5) Blind Break, Invisible hand and wisdom of crowds / Keith Sutherland

    The principal difference between a criminal and legislative jury is that the former is charged with establishing the facts of the matter, whereas the latter has to register its informed preference. Unanimity is ideal in the former case (primarily to reduce the risk of wrong convictions) whereas the legislative jury only has to reflect the preferences of the target population, so a simple majority will suffice (subject to a pre-specified margin of error). Statistical representation is essential for the latter (hence a size of several hundred), whereas the criminal jury simply needs to be independent from both the judicial apparatus and the defendant’s particular interests. It should be made as hard as possible for either party to select jurors so, unlike with the legislative jury, it’s more a case of the blind break (but the principle of trial by a jury of one’s peers does also suggest that the principle of descriptive representation also applies, as does the American principle of peremptory challenge).

    (*6) participation ladder of Arnstein or, for a more detailed definition, the ‘participation cube of Archon Fung’ (ladder of Arnstein see p8).

    (*7) see: Notions and applications of sortition in the representation of people.
    You can find our proposals in Dutch, French, English and German on


  19. Paul: I have a different idea for cleansing the Citizen Jury of partisanship: get rid of the elected assembly entirely. In its place, political parties would compete for the right to propose legislation, but would have no ability to determine what passes; that would belong to the Citizen Jury exclusively. Elected legislatures all end in a food fight anyway.

    I have a blog post about it here: My idea is a more radical, to be sure, but I am curious what you think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Alex,

    Very interesting blog post. I agree with your distinction between policy proposal (by elected body) and disposal (by allotted jurga), although I hadn’t thought it through in such detail. It’s interesting to note that Madison was aware that leaving both functions in the hands of a “single body of men” would corrupt the process (see my SSJ article The Two Sides of the Representative Coin), but he didn’t come up with any solutions. It’s also ironic that the mistake of both the founding fathers and (most) sortitionists is to focus on persons rather than corporate bodies (in the sense of Burke and Hegel).


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