The Sortition Option
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Sortition, or selection by lot, from the Latin sortiri,
has a long history of use, going back to the ancient Solonian
Constitution of Athens, and serving the Republic of Venice well
for 760 years. Rule by lot is called demarchy or klerostocracy,
from the Greek kleros (κλερος),
casting lots. Today it is mainly used for the selection of juries,
but the abuses of the electoral process, resulting from the need
for candidates to raise large sums of money from donors who expect
something in return, and the politicization of the appointment or
election of judges, makes it appropriate to consider amending
constitutions and laws to make more use of various forms of
Republic of Venice 1268-1797
Toss for It: A Surprising Curb on Political Greed, by
Sigmund Knag, Independent
Review, Vol. 3 No. 2, Autumn 1998.
of the Constitutions of the United States, Vol.
I, Letter XIX: Venice, by John Adams, 1787. History of the
Republic of Venice and their use of sortition in a
Most Serene Republic of Venice. From
Cambridge Modern History, Vol. I, Chapter VIII, by Horatio
Brown. Outline of constitution: Great Council; Senate; the
Republic of Florence, about 1115-1434, movement to
restore 1465. Corrupted by Medici family through its
Florentine selection system
History of Florence, Wikipedia.
to Pick Our Leaders: Should We Try a Lottery?, by Dick
Dougherty, The Independent Institute, January 7, 1999.
Classical Athenian Democracy, Christopher blackwell,
editor. Site devoted to the analysis and discussion of how
sortition worked in ancient Athens.
and Sortition, article on "Archon", The Encyclopedia
Britannica, Eleventh Ed., Vol. II, 1910.
Athenian Constitution: Government by Jury and Referendum,
by Roderick T. Long, Autumn 1996, published by the Libertarian Nation
Representatives by Lottery Voting, Akhil Reed Amar, 93
Yale L.J. 1283, June, 1984.
Voting: A Thought Experiment, Akhil Reed Amar (Yale Law
school, 1-1-1995) — Proposes election by random drawing of
ballots cast in a district.
A democratic alternative to electoral politics, by Brian
August 1989; revised January 2001.
without Elections, by Brian Martin, Social Anarchism
Essay on Democracy, by Peter Landry, firstname.lastname@example.org,
May, 1997. Re-edit:April, 1999.
Bezirke, review in Reason
by John McClaughry of A Solving
Problems Without Large Government: Devolution, Fairness, and
Equality, by George W. Liebmann, Westport, Conn.: Praeger,
could the social structure of anarchy look like?.
Politics, by Tom Atlee, 1991, revised Sept. 1999.
Citizen Legislature, by Ernest Callenbach and Michael
Phillips, In Context 11 (Autumn 1985).
Citizen Legislature, by Ernest Callenbach and
Michael Phillips, Berkeley, California: Banyan Tree Books, 1985.
Model for a Tiered Constituent Assembly, Proposed Models
for a Canadian Constituent Assembly, by Bill Longstaff (1997).
Juries in Great Britain, by Jen Romslo and Sascha Pohl.
Report of the British experience with citizens' juries.
Deliberative Institutions: Lesson from Citizens' Juries,
by Graham Smith and Corinne Wales.
Constitution of Czech Republic (Draft No 1, 2002) —
Proposes "citizens commissions" selected by sortition as a key
Sortition for Judges, by Jon
Plato (~348 BCE) — Model laws for a republic, including
sortition for judges and other officials.
Athenian Dramatic Competitions — Analysis of ancient
Athenian practices for selecting winners.
Concerning Political Justice, Book 6, Chap. 10, by
William Godwin. Not favorable to sortition, but not fond of
Reflections on the
Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke, 1790. Argues
against sortition, for representation based on merit and
English-Greek Dictionary, entry for "lot".
Center for Deliberative Democracy — Promotes the study of
sortition and related alternatives to voting.
Jefferson Center — Promotes the use of citizens juries to
advise elected officials on public policy matters.
Society for Democracy including Random Selection (SDRS) —
Promote random selection as a complementary method of election.
People for a more democratic House of Lords — Propose
selection of UK House of Lords by sortition.
Assembly on Electoral Reform — The Assembly is an
independent, non-partisan assembly of 158 randomly selected
by Lot — Blog of the Kleroterians.
Meritocracy After the Collapse of Democracy in America,
Terry Hulsey, lewrockwell.com — Proposal for using sortition to
select members of both houses of Congress.
Also see Jury Reform
and Public Choice.
at jonroland.net and Proposed Amendments