Action ideas

In the discussion following my presentation in the January DWE meeting, one of the participants suggested that a list of actions and activities that sortition activists can engage in in order to promote idea of sortition would be useful. Here is my attempt at a first draft. The possible actions and activities are categorized by the circle of action (internal, personal circle, wider circles). In addition there is a category of activities that are suitable for coordinated action. In some cases it may be worth expanding on the bullet items and giving some details, but I wanted to keep the list brief and manageable, so I intend to do this separately.

Please contribute your ideas in the comments. Hopefully we can create an improved, richer list in future versions.

Changing personal habits of thought and expression

  • Breaking the habit of thinking and referring to countries with elections-based political systems as “democratic” (e.g., “the Western democracies”)
  • Awareness of the oppressive outcomes of the elections-based system
  • Thinking and talking about those outcomes as inherent to the elections-based system, rather than aberrations
  • Rejecting the standard electoralist “fixes” (campaign finance reforms, term limits, the popular initiative process, proportional representation, etc.)

Action within the personal circle
Continue reading

Presentation at Democracy Without Elections meeting

On Sunday I presented the presentation above at a meeting of Democracy Without Elections. The presentation was followed by a lively discussion. There was some interest in the “call to action” I make in the next-to-last slide (namely, resisting the oppressive convention of calling countries where the political system is elections-based “democracies”). A proposal was made that we – sortition activists – draw up a list of possible actions that we could engage in, as individuals or in groups, to promote sortition. I had to admit that I have made no such list, and that as far as I know no such list exists. I’ll draw up a list of ideas I have (it may unfortunately be a rather short one) and share it in a future post, and we could collectively extend and improve it.

It was great to meet this group of enthusiastic sortition activists. I thank those who participated and in particular Owen Shaffer for inviting me, and I warmly congratulate all those involved. It is great to see such activity which I think was unimaginable on a decade ago.

Democracy Without Elections Board Selected by Lottery

A news release by Democracy Without Elections.

Directors for national board selected by lottery

The advocacy group “Democracy Without Elections” has decided to practice what it preaches and select its entire Board of Directors by lottery. Using a lottery, Democracy Without Elections (www.DemocracyWithoutElections.org) is able to form a diverse board and include input from less active members. The new Board, with Directors from across the country, will meet online later this month.

Democracy Without Elections is a grassroots member-driven organization that promotes better decision-making across all levels of government and in organizations ranging from Boards of Directors to student government. The use of democratic lotteries to select the decision-makers coupled with deliberation as the process to make the decisions are the hallmark of the group.

The organization specifically advocates for democratic lotteries to be used to select members in legislative bodies like Congress. The group also supports making fundamental changes in the way those bodies operate: replacing lobbyists, coalitions and partisan politics with deliberation.

Democracy Without Elections is a proponent of citizens’ assemblies as well. Citizens’ Assemblies are lottery-selected deliberative groups which make recommendations to legislative bodies. Each citizens’ assembly is tasked with one challenging issue like abortion or a specific ballot initiative.

The organization has members from Alaska to Florida and from New England to California. We welcome new members who can join us at www.DemocracyWithoutElections.org. We hold monthly online meetings that include relevant guest speakers and reports from Interest Groups.

Community Cooperative in Australia Conspicuously Selects Board via Sortition

The Kyneton and District Town Square Co-op set up as an umbrella organization of community groups to democratically manage a historic school building / town square in Australia has a constitution that requires some board members be chosen by sortition.

Scroll down on their home page to see a video of Nivek Thompson speak about sortition and pick five board members out of a hat. Also, several of the activists pose with a placard “Lottery Democracy Lunch” and a sign reads “Lottery democracy arrives in Kyneton.”

Étienne Chouard: Public decision-making from the perspective of the common good: Breaking out of the electoral trap

What follows is the table of contents of a 2016 essay by Étienne Chouard, which Chouard describes as “my most recent methodical comparison between election and sortition”. I will publish my translation to English of the essay in several parts. The original French version is here.

Public decision-making from the perspective of the common good: Breaking out of the electoral trap
A comparison between election and allotment of representatives
Étienne Chouard, 2016
(Original in French, translation to English by Yoram Gat, 2020.)

Part I. A comparison of the general strengths and weaknesses of elections and allotment of representatives

  • (i) Elections infantilize, and in this way paralyze, the voters. They discourage thinking and defending the common good (whereas sortition does not)
    • 1. By definition, elections are aristocratic, whereas sortition is democratic
    • 2. By definition, elections are an abdication, a renunciation of the exercising of one’s sovereignty oneself, it is delegation, it is the renunciation of legislation, whereas sortition is the assertion of sovereignty
    • 3. Elections infantilize, strip of responsibility, dissuade from doing what is right, and distance the people from politics and the common good, whereas sortition encourages, and promotes responsibility for, doing the right thing
  • Continue reading

Upcoming Sortition Foundation meeting

A note from Owen Shaffer of the Sortition Foundation:

The United States Chapter of the Sortition Foundation continues to have guest presenters at our online meeting every other month. This Sunday’s meeting features Linn Davis of Healthy Democracy! It begins at 4pm Eastern US time (3pm Central, 2pm Mountain and 1pm PCT).

Linn will explain HD’s unique form of Citizens Jury: the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), which is established in Oregon state statute, and has since been replicated in five US states and two European countries. He will also explain HD’s new local government Citizens Jury (CJ) model and touch on future designs for larger-scale city, state, and national sortition-based task forces and Citizens Assemblies.

Time permitting, Linn will also explain about an exciting new initiative to synthesize several decades of CJ experience (from HD, the Jefferson Center, the newDemocracy Foundation, and others) into a mass-market CJ model that is low-cost, time-efficient, and easily replicated in cities anywhere with sticky policy questions but modest means.

Our group includes some folks you would recognize and has a healthy group of people that are new to sortition. If you would like to join the meeting, email me at dshaffer@lander.edu and I will send you the link. You can also join our group email for announcements at http://lists.sortitionfoundation.org/subscribe/usa and a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/420337885380259/ as well.

Owen Shaffer, Convenor