Sortition: alternative or
complement to an election.
Can it improve democracy?

Sorting representatives at random:
a democratic solution to career politicians' dominance

Sortition appoints citizen's representatives by drawing them at random.

Sortition, also called demachy, is more democratic
than elections that are dominated by the machinery of political parties.

This fairer appointment system would limit the role of demagogue
career politicians.

Democracy via lottery

What is sortition?

A more democratic alternative to elections

Sortition is a process to appoint citizens' representatives by using a system
of dicerandom drawing
(like a lottery), akin to what is done for a
court's jury.
The purpose is to give citizens a
pont direct access to the power that
should belong to them in a democracy

A democratic regime that would be based on sortition instead of elections is
a "demachy"

Actually such a regime had only marginal application in History and is
currently nowhere in place.
However disappointed, and sometimes angry, are citizens (*) in many
countries about politicians. the blatantly less fair and less democratic
standard elective system
is still the rule.

(*) the high level of non-voters is a symptom.
      Spontaneous street demonstrations in many countries is another one.
      The rise of extremist votes also.

This article tries to find out what the sortition would bring so as to answer
its growing need, and of course also to identify its limitations.

It is an alternative to referenda also

This article is not about another well-known alternative to
direct democracy through public initiatives leading to

The bias of
referenda is that the questions:
* are binary ,even on highly complex and technical issues,
* deal with isolated topics,
*lead often to emotional reactions

All this is highly
reductive and prone to manipulative presentations.

It could also give a too large weight
to radical activist's votes when the
turnout is low among the general public
(except in case of herding on a
highly emotional theme, something that is biased also).

Referenda on such topics can go against balanced policies.

To arbitrate between all the constraints, has to be done by people who
are fully informed of those various aspects and work full time on them.

Also referenda are costly and not too practical. The Internet can make
them easier, but confidentiality is not guaranteed, thus it seems more
appropriate to spontaneous "petitions".

In what cases? In what proportions?

Sortition can be applied to local, regional, national citizen representatives.
And why not, let us dream, to global ones (see
democratic globalization).

It could be the way to appoint:
  • Either all the representatives.
  • Or members in one chamber
(representatives), the other ones (senators) being elected
  • Or a preset portion (from 25 % to over 50%)
  • Or a portion equal the percentage of non voters?

The pros and cons of sortition

A few questions, but maybe others will arise:
  • Would sortition be better in some cases than elections, by avoiding:

    • A power monopolized by political professionals and
              their organizations (*)?
    • A discrimination by sex, origin, socio-professional category?
(*) political parties tend to become kinds of businesses and
      election machineries). Politicians as shopkeepers !
  • Would ordinary people, decide more responsibly than such professionals?
As they would not run after next elections to renew their
assignment, a vote-chasing that entails
some demagoguery and

  • On the other hand, would they be more aware of the real issues
affecting the population ?
Or would it lead to another kind of demagoguery?

How to make sortition efficient and fair?

How to make the draw

Ideally, the representatives would be chosen at random among the
whole population

They could decide to accept or not their nomination. There would
be a"waiting list" of other citizens, drawn also at random, ready to replace
them if they don't accept (or do not participate assiduously once appointed).

(*) with a quota by country proportional to their population if it is applied
toWorld federalism.

Another method would be that candidates apply
and the draw is
done only among those applicants.
This might be more practical to launch the system.

The drawback is that it could give less guarantee that representatives
match the whole population diversity, which should be the final objective
to obtain perfect democracy.
Even if applications are free, easy and fully open (that should be the case),
some clusters of highly motivated people segments (either "elitists",
"activists" or whatever) could surge and invade the lists, which would not
respect the "normal" random distribution law (see

How to guarantee competence and independence

There are two main tricky points:
  • One is competence.
Many political issues need some technical knowledge.
and also an aptitude at analysis and decision-making.
  • The other is independence,
avoiding to be contaminated by career-building political parties and

Therefore innovative answers have to be found to the following
  • How would representatives chosen at random learn the basics
and get prepared? A several month training period before
starting their mission, and regular updates during it?
  • How to do this learning, training, preparation be done 
in an independent way?
  • Should they create their own independent political group(s) so as

    • Not to be isolated and therefore weak;

    • To accumulate political experience to help those who will
    replace them when drawn?

Other ideas to buttress efficiency and fairness?

Tests are needed,
but are politicians ready to accept?

Hard to answer in detail all those questions as long as the system is not
But how to obtain that the test take place, knowing that the political
parties would be reluctant
to abandon part of of their "business"?

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M.a.j. / updated : 06 Aug. 2015
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