Ontario’s pot shop lottery

The Ontario government (in Canada) has allotted the first 25 pot shop licenses by lottery.

Nearly 17,000 applicants participated in the lottery to win the right to apply for a licence to run one of Ontario’s first cannabis shops.


The province has temporarily limited the number of stores to 25 because of a shortage of pot. Politicians decided that a lottery was the fairest way to decide who could first apply for the licences.

The lottery was a blow to entrepreneurs who already had plans to open shops under way. Some had signed leases and completed branding and store designs.

At least half a dozen companies, including Ottawa’s National Access Cannabis, planned pot-shop chains or franchise operations.

Those big players found themselves at the mercy of chance, just like everyone else who paid $75 to enter the lottery. It didn’t appear that any of the big players won the lottery.

The DNC to allot primary debate slots

The Democratic party has announced its planned schedule for primary debates for the 2020 presidential race. To handle the possibility of there being many candidates, the DNC plans, if necessary, to split the field into two groups, and having those groups debate in two consecutive nights. The split will be at random:

If necessary, depending on the number of candidates who meet the threshold, the DNC is prepared to split the first two debates in June and July into consecutive nights, said DNC Chairman Tom Perez. If that happens, the lineup will be determined by random selection, which will take place publicly.

“It’s conceivable that we have a double-digit field,” Perez told reporters on a conference call. “That is why we are planning for that contingency.”

Pacific Standard magazine gives some background and analysis:
Continue reading

2018 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the ninth year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2018 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,655 2 65
Feb 3,165 12 211
Mar 2,216 9 163
Apr 2,038 5 30
May 2,570 13 118
June 2,421 11 178
July 2,095 2 64
Aug 1,961 6 43
Sept 2,490 6 109
Oct 7,746 15 80
Nov 3,286 8 106
Dec (to 25th) 2,423 6 25
Total 35,066 95 1,192

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 16 authors during 2018. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 377 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 347 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 3rd result (out of “about 30,200 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 6th result (out of “about 140,000 results”) – preceded by the sortition entry at Wikipedia, links to Brett Hennig’s Sortition Foundation, and a link to Tim Dunlop’s article in the Guardian.

Happy holidays and a happy new year to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!

Call for 2018 review input

This is the yearly call for input for the year’s end review. As in previous years, I would like to have a post or two summarizing the ongoings here at Equality-by-Lot and notable sortition-related events over the passing year. Any input about what should be included is welcome – either through comments below or via email. You are invited to refresh your memory about the events of the passing year by browsing Equality-by-Lot’s archives.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

25 Books under “Sortition” on Amazon

Sortition fans can type “sortition” into the Amazon search box (with the setting set to Books) and bring up a list of about 25 books on sortition. (You might also try “demarchy” or “election by lot”.) About one-third of the Kindle versions are under $5.

Americans can get to that page merely by clicking the shorty link https://goo.gl/Jw8Xfg 

Britons can do likewise at https://goo.gl/6RN8R7

Burnheim’s book, Is Democracy Possible? isn’t among the 25, probably because the word “sortition” isn’t in its text (I assume), but its Kindle version can be had in the U.S. for $3 at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IMOCMLG/ref=pe_385040_118058080_TE_M1DP 

Probably its UK version is likewise inexpensive, but you’ll have to type in the title to get to it.

Frey and Tridimas on sortition

George Tridimas wrote to draw attention to the recent issue of the journal Homo Oeconomicus which has a set of comments (including one of his own) on a 2017 paper by the Swiss political economist Bruno Frey titled “Proposals for a Democracy of the Future” (PDF).

In the paper, Frey has a section called “True  Democracy  by  Random  Decisions?”. Some excerpts from that section:

The major advantage of random procedures in politics is to guarantee equal chance and therewith fairness, given the underlying body (e.g. Stone 2007). Each and every one in the underlying population has an equal chance of getting elected. It is therefore not necessary to introduce special quotas e.g. for the share of women. Interestingly, random procedures even take into account dimensions not yet discussed or even beyond imagination. Most importantly, the body politic is opened to new ideas and otherwise disregarded views. This also holds for preferences not yet even known but which may be important in the future.

The disadvantage of random decisions in politics is that capabilities, education and the intensity of desires are disregarded. This is the main reason why random choices in politics are rarely, if ever, taken from the population as a whole. The advantage of equality and fairness must be compared to the disadvantage of lower competencies. There are a great many possibilities to combine the two – a worthy subject for future research.

In addition to proposing combining sortition with elections, Frey also proposes deciding the outcome of referenda at random with the probabilities of the outcomes given by the vote shares.

Tridimas’s comment contains a review of the use of sortition in Athens. He concludes with a section called “Why Sortition may not Work”:

Clearly, the Athenian democracy was fundamentally different from the present representative democracy. Assembly deliberation, the rule of simple majority, absence of political parties, citizen participation through the courts, and sortition were a joint constitutional package, inexorably linked and mutually reinforcing. Therefore, an institution like sortition that served the direct democracy well may not be easily transferable to a representative democracy without the rest of the institutional structures. Cutting and pasting sortition from Athens to today is not the same thing as grafting it to the current institutional structure, and may fail to deliver ‘‘a better democracy’’.

Official records lacking in EMA location allotment

Corriere dela Sera writes:

Doubts emerge over EMA ballot and “burnt” voting slips

Various aspects of assignment to Netherlands of EMA headquarters still unclear, also due to lack of official records regarding draw by lot

The assignment of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam by lot – to the detriment of Milan – was made official at the EU General Affairs Council on 20 November. But it has now emerged that there is no documentary evidence to reassure European citizens everything was done correctly and according to the rules; the procedure displayed unprecedented anomalies and levels of secrecy, culminating in selection by lot. The representatives of Italy and the Netherlands were not even called to supervise the proceedings at close hand. “Even in children’s tournaments the referee allows the two team captains to watch the toss of the coin …”, commented one ambassador present on the day.

No checks
The ballot papers of the three rounds of voting by the ministers were immediately burned, and the speed with which the draw was performed made any checks either before or after impossible. Above all, on 20 November there was an attempt to shroud everything in the utmost secrecy, with not even the draw method made public. Moreover, since last week the EU Council has continued to refuse to give the Corriere any information on how the voting and count took place, let alone on the lot drawing procedure. We have been able to reconstruct what happened thanks to informal interviews with ministers and ambassadors present, who set greater importance on the value of transparency than on being sworn to secrecy.