FAQ

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.

Lille en comme’un

Could an anarchist organization run a city? The words seem to contradict each other: “anarchist”, “organization” and “run”. The anarchist movement generally presupposes a total absence of authority. But by anarchy I mean a much softer idea: the impermanence of a drawn authority. Municipalism and participatory lists partly implement this idea at the level of the city, and at the commune of Saillans a participatory list uses the drawing of lots on a regular basis. Along that same line of thought, I created this week a group whose name is “Lille en comme’un 2020” aiming to present a list in the next municipal elections of Lille. This name derives from “Barcelona en comu” and also comes from a discussion we had in a meeting of the Listes Participatives Paris. My objective: to participate in the genesis and success of such a list in Lille.


An image illustrating Lille en comme’un 2020. The shape of Lille and inside an enso.

Our meetings will have one thing in common, we will designate with a die the people who will moderate our meetings. One moderates by giving the floor to people who raise their hands, by controlling speaking time, but also by asking the quiet ones for their opinion. Before the appointment, we all agree on a maximum term of office – which can be as short as 20 minutes. Someone then casts a die and the n-th person to their left will moderate – n being the number on the die. At the end of his or her term or if the moderator resigns earlier, he or she rolls the die again to appoint a new moderator. So the power turns.

We have already tried this three times in the meetings of the Paris participative lists. And at our first meeting for Lille en Comme’un that took place last Friday. It worked well (we talked for 4 hours using this method) and this modus operandi makes it possible to avoid long speeches and capture of power in the meeting. This method is not perfect and I was able to observe that one problem at our last meeting in Paris was the absence of a secretary to write a report.

One possible solution that we could test in Lille is for the person who moderates to appoint a secretary at the beginning of his mandate. It is optional to change the person for this function after each moderator’s mandate so that stability and professionalism are brought to the meeting.

Thank you for reading! And I look forward to meeting you in person at Lille en comme’un 2020.

P.S: This post comes from my blog on sortition. Don’t hesitate to pay a visit!

Jury citoyen

The original post comes from: www.stochocratie.org. The post below is in French (for Yoram to practise :) but there is an English version here: http://www.stochocratie.org/2018/04/17/jury-citoyen.

La démocratie prend trop de temps au citoyen ordinaire et devrait être laissée à un petit nombre de personnes soigneusement sélectionnées. Telles étaient les pensées des fondateurs de nos démocraties modernes. Ils ont décidé que nous devrions élire les personnes qui détiennent le pouvoir entre leurs mains. La sélection aléatoire permettrait aux gens de décider pour eux-mêmes – beaucoup trop dangereux selon eux. Les fondateurs savaient que la sortition permettait la démocratie et que les élections favorisent l’aristocratie. C’est pour cette raison qu’ils ont choisi les élections. Mais décider en utilisant le hasard semble …. mmh…. aléatoire… Jury Citoyen ou Citizen Jury également appelé Minipublics se penche sur cette question.

Deux personnes qui ont proposé ou proposent d’utiliser plus souvent le Jury Populaire en politique. Segolène Royal et Loïc Blondiaux (source : Wikimedia).

Utiliser un dé pour décider serait stupide. Choisir au hasard une seule personne pour décider serait également stupide. Choisir quelques personnes – aussi peu que quinze personnes – pour donner un avis sur un sujet précis est une excellente idée. Les politologues et le grand public se penchent sur cette question dans de nombreux pays comme l’Irlande, le Canada, l’Australie, l’Islande ou la France. Partout les effets sont similaires : les personnes sélectionnées changent souvent d’avis après les longues discussions pendant les quelques week-ends où le rassemblement a lieu ; elles s’impliquent davantage dans la politique et prennent davantage conscience de l’intérêt publics. Partout, ils fournissent de nouvelles orientations qui peuvent être suivies ou non par les politiciens. Mais pourquoi ne peuvent-ils pas prendre des décisions exécutives ?

Les mini-publics sont trop souvent des boîtes noires. La sélection aléatoire se fait souvent derrière d’épais rideaux. De plus, il est facile de faire pression sur quinze personnes. Ces deux arguments réduisent de beaucoup la légitimité d’un Minipublic. Je plaide dans ce blog pour la transparence et propose des moyens de rendre la sélection aléatoire plus fluide. Il faut consulter des experts, le Minipublic a besoin de demander leurs avis, mais pas de les laisser décider quoi que ce soit. Les modérateurs/animateurs/facilitateurs jouent un rôle clé et devraient être sélectionnés en utilisant la sortition ;) Les politiciens professionnels et les journalistes affiliés adorent critiquer les membres du Jury populaire. Le Figaro a montré une photo des gens du Jury Populaire pour démontrer à quel point Nuit Debout était devenue farfelue.

Pourtant, ces jurys fournissent d’excellents avis et certains proposent que nous utilisions les Minipublics pour nommer nos dirigeants exécutifs. J’irai ici encore un peu plus loin, peut-être pourrions-nous utiliser les Minipublics pour prendre des décisions exécutives ?

Passerelle

Some consider Switzerland as a laboratory for democratic experiments. The Swiss town of Bienne exemplifies this trend. This city of more than 50,000 inhabitants is home for a movement called Passerrelle.

Having been created in 2008, Passerrelle recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. In 2011, they advocated for the involvement of foreigners in communal policies. This step toward openness demonstrates their philosophy: use everybody’s ideas. In 2017 Passerelle has proposed the creation of citizen assemblies. The assemblies would suggest ideas for solving municipal problems. Like many sortition proponents, Passarelle mentions the reliance on sortition in ancient Greece.

Two bridges which link different landscapes or methods.

Passerelle is putting up a candidate for the March 2018 elections of Berne’s regional council. Ruth Tennenbaum is the name of their candidate. This is an unimportant detail since, as a hack of the Swiss electoral system, Tennenbaum will resign as soon as she gets elected. I already wrote about a method used by Demorun to mix the electoral system with random selection in a previous post. Passerelle aims to go further and make the random selection after the vote to avoid any possible personification occurring during the campaign. Some “technical” details remain to be decided: the list they will pick from and the method used to perform the random selection. On this latter point I contacted a source close to Passerelle who told me that they might use the method I described in a previous post! The election takes place on the 22nd of March. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! If I forgot something, the comment section is just below.

This post was originally published on The sortition blog.

Saillans

Let’s do some sightseeing and go to Saillans. A small village in a South of France tried something unusual, and I belong to a collective in Paris wanting to reproduce their experiment. A member sent a bunch of links to videos about Saillans.

Two images to help locating Saillans. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Saillans’ town hall uses sortition massively. 12 randomly selected citizen control the elected official (check 5:00 of this video). They also use random selection to build action groups on specific topics, like designing the city’s urban plan. The experiment demonstrates how we can use chance to enhance citizen involvement. They demonstrate at least two points: (1) Citizens can perform executive functions, and (2) Citizens can be used to control the executive power.

Of course, some locals speak against this method and for them things were better before. And some mayors around look on Saillans with a judgemental eye. They argue that people should not decide on topics unknown to them. We can answer this argument in two ways: people can become experts through action, and certain mayors didn’t have any prior training before their elections.

But the easiest criticism of this experiment is about its scale (Saillans’ population is around 1,200 inhabitants). Hey, we need to start somewhere and better start at the smallest scale possible. I like the bottom-up approach and believe that a revolution should be done one step at a time. The town hall has worked this way for four years now. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! Write below, if you want to add information about Saillans or why you agree or disagree.

This post was originally published on http://www.stochocratie.org.