Irregularities in the selection process of the Irish Citizen Assembly

This is over a year old, but is relevant to the recent discussions here of allotment procedures.

Seven people who took part in the last Citizens’ Assembly weren’t recruited properly
Feb 21st 2018

A TOTAL OF seven people who took part in the last meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly were improperly recruited and shouldn’t have been there. The Citizens’ Assembly confirmed that seven of the 99 citizens present at a meeting on 13 and 14 January had been recruited improperly by Red C Research and Marketing.

In statements from both the Citizens’ Assembly and Red C, the fault was placed on one specific Red C recruiter. Both bodies said that after an extensive internal audit it was determined that the issue was isolated to January’s Assembly meeting and that past meetings were not affected.

Improper methodology

There is a strict methodology in place for recruiting people for the Citizens’ Assembly – which convenes so that ordinary citizens may deliberate on important topics put forward by consideration by the Oireachtas.

Under this legal framework, Red C interviewers had to recruit participants by cold calling door-to-door to households in the allocated geographic area which is issued to them by Red C. No other method of recruitment was agreed.

The seven individuals in question were contacted by phone in December of last year. They were identified by potential members through friends and family of a single recruiter. All seven individuals were recruited by the same recruiter.

They have each now been informed by the Assembly Secretariat that they can play no further part in the Assembly going forward.

Red C apologised unreservedly for the incident.

9 Responses

  1. Red C interviewers had to recruit participants by cold calling door-to-door to households in the allocated geographic area which is issued to them.

    They were [wrongly] identified by [as?] potential members through friends and family of a single recruiter

    The first methodology strikes me as almost as bad, given that it would be up to the recruiter as to how much encouragement was given to each potential member. The alarming thing is that the Irish Citizen Assembly is often referenced as a good example of “sortition” in practice.

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  2. Can we write an optimal proposal for “a mini public” at the hand of the ‘criteria’ proposed https://equalitybylot.com/2019/07/25/criteria-for-a-representative-citizens-assembly/ that can be used at this stage (step 6 Arnstein) in legislation (Oregon CIR, Irisch assembly, etc..) ? This in opposition to the ‘scientificaly manipulated’ systems that are now promoted and installed. It is easy to say that we don’t agree but what is the alternative we propose?

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  3. But do we even agree on the principles involved? I’m surprised that (apart from you and I), there has been little (relevant) comment on such an important issue, and representatives of the Sortition Foundation are not even prepared to defend their (ab)use of the eponymous principle on this forum.

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  4. I am personally challenged to propose an alternative by some, here in Belgium, who are in favour of the system of the ‘scientifically manipulated’ selection to form a mini public. And who am I? If we can’t do it here we can’t do it nowhere ;-) . I took the criteria you proposed and I will write to the best of my knowledge ‘a better proposal’ (I am at point 6). Of course it has to be discussed and improved. It is a what we call in Dutch a “sneuveltekst” , a text meant to start the discussion and go down in the fight (sneuvelen = die in combat). If there is anyone who want to take on the challenge I can start with the first 5 points. The sortition foundation has an advantage to us, they have a proposal supported by some academics, politicians and writers.

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  5. >what we call in Dutch a “sneuveltekst”

    What a wonderful word!

    >The sortition foundation has an advantage to us, they have a proposal supported by some academics, politicians and writers

    Yes, that’s the trouble (and newDemocracy are well funded). Perhaps I’m a naive idealist, but I just don’t get why people don’t want to talk these things through — especially those supposedly committed to deliberative democracy.

    Look forward to reading your piece (presumably a new thread on this forum?). Will it be a presentation of the criteria or a concrete proposal?

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  6. as concrete as possible ;-)

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  7. I wonder if that’s appropriate at this stage if we can’t even agree on the criteria. I tried to list them in an uncommitted way (even though everyone on this forum knows that I have my own very concrete views).

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  8. I agree that the way selection has been done suggests the belief that any broad swath of diverse citizens is sufficient. This is a very bad trajectory. I also agree that the criteria headings Keith proposed in another thread: https://equalitybylot.com/2019/07/25/criteria-for-a-representative-citizens-assembly/ are reasonable (I’m sure there are others that will occur to me).

    But the key is that many of us think there can be many DIFFERENT roles for sortition, that can accept different “landing points” on these criteria headings. Since Keith is only accepting of a single role (mute voting yes or no by a large short duration mini-public after balanced presentation by advocates for and against), he will want, eventually, a single landing point on each criterion. Other roles (let’s say a mini-public that reviews the performance of a chief executive with power to remove them from office, or an agenda setting mini-public with no final policy powers, or a drafting mini-public that will prepare a final proposal for a policy jury, etc.) would each have different landing points (sample size, deliberation process, duration, etc.)

    In the immediate future, rather than devising a set of agreed BEST practices (which as I point out is impossible since there can be different KINDS of mini-publics), a more crucial task is to define a smaller set of UNACCEPTABLE practices that nullify the legitimacy of the process. It is bad enough when sortition fans take “lazy” shortcuts… but soon nefarious politicians will seize on fake sortition as a fig leaf for manipulating public acceptance of their pet policies.

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  9. Terry,

    You’re right — my concern is purely with sortition as a vehicle for democratic equality. It’s true that sortition also has prophylactic benefits and some would claim that it has epistemic potential. The trouble is that we all use the same word to refer to very different things. Dowlen’s book, for example, is called The Political Potential of Sortition, leading Arturo Íñiguez to scold me for abjuring the “lottery principle” in favour of descriptive representation (which, along with Dowlen and Stone, he’s just not interested in). https://equalitybylot.com/2019/07/25/criteria-for-a-representative-citizens-assembly/#comment-27434

    >soon nefarious politicians will seize on fake sortition as a fig leaf for manipulating public acceptance of their pet policies.

    Exactly. Contractors like Red C, Sortition Foundation and newDemocracy are already using sortition as a fig-leaf to cover over blatantly undemocratic practices.

    So what to do? I’m half tempted to give up on sortition in favour of stochation, but that will consign those of us who exclusively believe in sortition as a democratic tool to continuing obscurity. So I would prefer to stay and fight against the takeover of the term by those whose prime concerns are not democratic equality (notwithstanding their claims to the contrary).

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