Voting – Sortition – Election

Gene Callahan has attended a panel about sortition and, seemingly like most people with any interest in sortition, came up with his own variant – a 3-stage process:

  1. Voting – people who get a certain number of votes go to the next stage.
  2. Random selection – of the people who made it to this stage, a certain number are selected at random and go to the next stage.
  3. Election – the people who reach this stage stand for popular elections.

If the bar in the first stage is set low enough, it may not involve mass politics – one could supposedly get to the second stage simply by getting the votes of one’s friends and acquaintances. This stage would serve to limit the sortition pool to fairly well motivated people who have some spare time on their hands. Whether this is a good filtration mechanism is unclear.

The random selection of the second stage would limit the ability of interested parties to influence the outcome of the elections by carefully selecting the candidates from the vast pool of the entire population. Taken to the extreme, there could be a single person promoted to the third stage, resulting in the elimination of the election round altogether.

Otherwise, mass political effects would rule this last stage and it may be expected that, as usual, superficialities would determine who, among the candidates, would win the elections. The winner would also be able to argue (and believe) that they deserve their position of power due to having won a competition, and such a mindset would potentially have the same corrupting influence that it does in the existing system.

Advertisements

25 Responses

  1. This was at the PSA panel (on deliberative and participatory democracy) where Peter Stone and I were presenting papers:

    http://www.psa.ac.uk/2012/PanelDetails.aspx?PanelID=90

    It was a good session with some lively reactions from deliberative theorists, who are (for the most part) not particularly interested in sortition as they are more concerned with the quality of the deliberation than the representativity of the forum. But we’re working on them!

    Like

  2. It appears that when there is a vote, money and power can influence the outcome. A variant to the above would be: When anyone who receives enough citizen signatures (citizens can only sign for one candidate) they are placed in the box for drawing. Those drawn will be put into a box with other drawn names from other precincts, etc. The last drawing will produce the selected representatives.

    Like

  3. newoutofthebox,

    What is the rationale for up putting the signature-collection bar? What is the rationale for allowing people to support at most one candidate?

    Like

  4. Thanks for the questions. A legislative body needs to function and in my opinion each representative should represent at least some people, be capable of functioning in a group, and be willing to work at the job.. This system of getting signatures would eliminate crackpots and others who others don’t deem appropriate for the job. But the number of signatures required should be low enough to enable most people to have their names put into the pot. Also it indicates that the person is willing to do the job. If this portion is not included, then people may be selected who do not want to work at being a representative.

    The rationale for allowing people to suppor at most one candidate should be discussed. I was thinking that somehow the box could be stuffed one sided somehow but haven’t thought the process out I am looking for the forum to discuss this issue.

    Like

  5. The notion that demonstrating a proactive desire to “do the job” is necessarily a good thing, is an assumption in need of re-examination. My next-door neighbor is the sort of person I think would make a good representative. But she wouldn’t see herself that way, and would never collect signatures (nor run in an election under the current system. But if she were picked in a lottery she would feel obliged to give it her all. that is just the kind of person she is. My neighbor one further down the street is a blow-hard with an obnoxious opinion on everything. He has a very inflated sense of his own worth, and is the type of person who would seek power under this proposed system. I prefer a system that allows those who are UNwilling to serve to excuse themselves, but worry that a system that requires a proactive self-promotion to enter the pool will distort the representative body towards ego-maniacs (as the current electoral system does). And I say this as a former state legislator myself.

    Like

  6. You have good points. What if someone else got the signatures for the shy person so that person’s name is put into the pot? How are you going to keep mentally unfit people from getting selected if you don’t have any type of pre-determination of character? Sure, the blowheart would have his name in there but you and many other good people would have their names in there too.

    Like

  7. The risk of empowering people with mental problems may actually be worse under the current electoral system than under a lottery. Some psychologists estimate the percentage of people with anti-social personality disorder (psychopaths) to be about 1% in the general population but about 4% among elected officials. As to the issue of competence, the key is to select groups of people through sortition, rather than solitary offices. We need to think about the average competence of a group, and the proven advantages of diverse cognitive styles for problem solving. In other words, having some dull-witted members in a group, who also have some personal knowledge not known by the rest of the group, enhances the overall group’s ability. Its the “wisdom of crouds” concept. Economist Scott E. Page has proven a theorem he calls “diversity trumps ability.”

    Like

  8. I am a big believer in diversity – the only sustainable system in the biological,, physical, economical, educational, and political arenas. But I figure that if a person can not get 100 people to vouch for them, that person cannot be consider as representing anyone but himself.Some nice, honest, dull witted people probably would be able to get 100 other people to vouch for them. It would not be fair to think this system would have the same statistics as the current system.

    Like

  9. The issue is whether we want allotted politicians to take an active role (arguing, debating, proposing) or whether we are more interested in their aggregated judgment. If the former then I agree that they would only be representing themselves, if the latter then the random selection process ensures that they represent the wider population statistically. They would judge a legislative debate in the same way that people like them would in the whole population, thereby creating a representation in miniature (mini public). We need to be very precise as to what we mean by the word “representation”; of course political representatives currently perform both of these functions but there is a good analytic case for assigning the active and judgment roles to two separate types of representative as mixing them always leads to corruption, irrespective of the chosen method of selection.

    Like

  10. newoutofthebox,

    > if a person can not get 100 people to vouch for them, that person cannot be consider as representing anyone but himself.

    First, you should note that if the bar is set at 100 signatures, and if any person may only vote for one candidate, then 99% of the people would not be able to pass the bar. So what you are really suggesting is limiting the pool to a set of very atypical people.

    But even if you set the bar at 10 people, and allow people to vote for multiple candidates, so that in theory everybody could be in the pool, I think you are still facing a problem of representation. The segment in the population of people who are unable – or even unwilling – to pass the signature bar, is a segment that should be democratically represented. Your proposed system disenfranchises those people.

    This is the standard problem with all proposed exclusions: if the excluded segment is small enough, then its exclusion doesn’t matter much – but then why bother with exclusion to begin with? If, on the other hand, the exclusion rate is high, then the system becomes unrepresentative.

    Like

  11. How do you get an aggregated judgement without an active role? My experience with consensus shows that the human factor creates a false sense of equality. I agree two bodies would be better than one.

    Is it not feasible to think that we could develop a system that would exclude 5% of the population in order to increase the likelihood of making timely decisions. I lived in Earthaven that uses “consensus” and learned a lot about human nature and the art of making decisions.
    Should people found to be crooked be allowed to be in the legislative body?
    I would readily accept a system without exclusion too.

    Like

  12. I agree that consensus is a false goal; the way to aggregate judgment is by voting. This is not normally considered an active role (like policy advocacy and other speech acts). People are very unequal when it comes to speech acts, but when it comes to voting we get exactly one share each.

    Like

  13. A new question is: can a party get its members to agree before sortition to vote as the party wants if they are selected?

    Like

  14. How would a person receive the required information to make a good decision with their vote?

    Like

  15. > Should people found to be crooked be allowed to be in the legislative body?

    Who gets to determine who is a crook? In the U.S., 2 million Blacks (about 8%) are disenfranchised through felon disenfranchisement laws. In KY, the rate is almost 25%.

    So, I think the answer to your question should be “yes”. Ordinarily, it should be expected that the number of “crooks” is small enough so that it doesn’t matter. If we get to a situation where the number of “crooks” in the population is so high that they get a sizable representation then searching for the a solution by disenfranchisement is clearly the wrong path.

    Like

  16. >How would a person receive the required information to make a good decision with their vote?

    The Deliberative Poll model depends on “balanced” information and advocacy. How to achieve balance between pros and cons in a legislative context is obviously problematic. In my proposal (A People’s Parliament, Imprint Academic, 2008), the winning party in a general election gets to argue for the bill and the opposing information comes from an independent advocacy house. But the final decision is in the hands of the allotted members. This means that there is a clear separation between interests/information and judgment (as in the trial process), but how to balance the information/interests side is a contentious issue.

    Like

  17. > How would a person receive the required information to make a good decision with their vote?

    In the same way that present-day elected officials do. They employ the resources and authority of the their position to conduct inquiries as they see fit.

    Like

  18. > can a party get its members to agree before sortition to vote as the party wants if they are selected?

    Who gets to decide what “the party wants”?

    No – every allotted member votes according to their opinion.

    Like

  19. >In the same way that present-day elected officials do. They employ the resources and authority of the their position to conduct inquiries as they see fit.

    There is a long-running disagreement on this blog between those (like me) who would allocate the information and judgment functions to separate bodies and those (like Yoram) who would have allotted officials do everything that elected officials currently do. Unfortunately we’ve never been able to resolve this issue. I would agree with newoutofthebox that the danger of Yoram’s position is that the speech acts of randomly selected individuals only represent themselves.

    Like

  20. Very interesting. I tend to like the separation for the information and judgement functions. Getting information from smaller groups and individuals would be a step forward as the senate committees try to do.

    Say a radical right winger who is devoted to a party or individual gets picked, wouldn’t that person be easily persuade by the guru either by influence or money? The controllers of the parties have tremendous power over many blind followers.

    I would like to see the influence of parties completely eliminated from the process but how, I am not sure.

    Hopefully there will be enough good ones picked to have a good ethics committe to process out the criminals who are taking advantage of their situation.

    There is no easy solution but until a lot of us can agree on a logical solution, we can’t get the general public to accept it.

    Like

  21. Without doubt individual allotted members will be strongly influenced by charismatic party leaders etc., that’s why you need several hundred of them, so that the influences balance out. I agree that we do need to find some common ground among ourselves, sadly that doesn’t seem to be happening!

    Like

  22. > I would like to see the influence of parties completely eliminated from the process

    There is nothing wrong with influence. There is no essential difference between being “persuaded by a guru” and “following the advice of an expert”. You can’t and shouldn’t eliminate either, provided that both reflect the considered and informed decisions of the persons involved.

    Like

  23. > I would agree with newoutofthebox that the danger of Yoram’s position is that the speech acts of randomly selected individuals only represent themselves.

    The distinction that you are drawing between voting and “speech acts” is immaterial. The acts of individuals – speech, voting, or otherwise – do not represent anyone. Under the right conditions, the acts of the allotted chamber – speech, voting, or otherwise – are likely to be representative in the sense that they serve the interests of the public at large.

    Like

  24. >The distinction that you are drawing between voting and “speech acts” is immaterial. The acts of individuals – speech, voting, or otherwise – do not represent anyone. Under the right conditions, the acts of the allotted chamber – speech, voting, or otherwise – are likely to be representative in the sense that they serve the interests of the public at large.

    That presupposes the existence of The Public Interest as opposed to the aggregation of individual preferences. If the former is true, and exists independently of aggregated preferences then I suppose every non-elite member of an allotted chamber might contribute to it via their every action. It’s worth noting though that although Rousseau was wedded to this position he still argued that silent deliberation followed by voting was the only way not to infringing the sovereign equality of all citizens. This was because some citizens might not realise what constituted The Public Interest, so an allotted chamber with active powers might well deviate from the general will under the false consciousness generated by their malign influence.

    But if the latter (the public interest = aggregated preferences) is true and individual speech acts differ in their illocutionary force then these are categorically different from votes. You can aggregate votes and refer to the outcome as the public interest, not so with speech acts. I would point out, once again, that this is not my distinction, it’s just regular Austinian linguistic philosophy.

    Deliberative theorists would draw a sharp distinction between the dominance of a guru and the advice of an expert, as the latter relies on reasons rather than faith and emotionality.

    Like

  25. newoutofthebox,

    You might want to look at the long discussion about a proposal to utilize multiple sortition bodies on a separate string of this Blog here:
    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/athenian-democracy-reincarnate/
    I am currently working on a paper that describes this proposal more fully.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: