McKay: Combining mini publics and multi stage popular votes

The section ‘Combining mini publics and multi stage popular votes’ in Spencer McKay’s new paper ‘Building a better referendum’ presents an interesting overview of several systems where the referendum is combined with mini publics.

Pairing a multi-stage popular vote with a mini-public – a process I refer to as an iterated popular vote (IPV) – may aid in bridging the gap between micro-deliberation and macro-participation. The IPV is an attempt at institutional design inspired by the notion of “designed coupling,” which seeks to “find the optimal strength of linkages between different parts of a deliberative system” (Hendriks, 2016, p. 55).

4 Responses

  1. We must look at this the other way round:

    The challenge is not to build a better referendum. It is to make the outcome of a mini-public process falsifiable by a mass-public acclamation.


    It is self-evident that decisions through mini-publics for many issues – instead of using up all citizens’ bandwidth with mass-publics for a single issue – yield a much more efficient reform progress, through division of labour. Acclamation adds Popperian falsifiability, it helps us to assess if mini-public processes actually do find the General Will.


  2. If you would like to see a comprehensive merger of mini public and national referenda, get a copy of The Future of Teledemocracy.(2000) by me. Ted Becker


  3. I call such a system fetura. Venice 1268-1697 provides an example.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good one Jon.

    We tested an improved form of Fetura a month back for internal elections at GILT. Our full group size was set the number where 15% confidence interval gives 95% confidence level which maxes out at 43.

    Then we used lots to reduce to a deliberative group size of 9 (we could have used 9, 10 or 11). Did this for all but the final round which required 65% agreement (50%+15%) of the full group for the chosen. It worked like a charm, including the subsequent general acclamation.

    It’s a fun application of the famous six degrees of separation.

    In fact, even a World President with the above parameters would only need 19 election rounds working through 817 world citizens. Very efficient

    Pop: 7,6 billion
    Group size: 43
    Rounds: 19 – simply calculated as ln(pop) – ln(size)


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