A 1976 book named Un-vote for a new America by Ted Becker, Paul Szep and Dwight Ritter* offers, among other ideas for political reform, the idea of using sortition for selecting half the members of the U.S. Congress:
[I]f the reader makes even the most superficial survey of the world’s “democracies” particularly zeoring in on the national legislatures, it will be obvious that they are all dominated by elites, business or political. All of them claim to represent the people; obviously they don’t. They merely represent the elites’ view of what is in the “public interest” and we are told, correspondingly, that what they decide to be the public interest is, ipso facto, the public interest.
The big question is whether there is any system imaginable that would permit the people to be represented in proportion to their true numbers in the population. For example, there are ethnic minorities in just about every nation, and almost all of them are either unrepresented in the national legislature or very poorly represented. Thus, they get the bones and feathers. Nowhere are women closely represented to their true numbers in the population. Thus, many laws favor men over women. Young people are represented nowhere near their weight in the population. They fight the wars the older folks declare and profit by. Workers, the honest to goodness blue-collar kind (not union leaders), rarely find themselves in national legislatures. Radicals are gerrymandered into insignificance everywhere. And so forth, and so on, ad infinitum.
[…] The only way the American people will have their truly proportionate viewpoints represented in their national legislature will be by a system of selecting their representatives–a good number of them–in a national lottery. Choose Congress by lot? Have a random house? You bet.
Why is it that important life and death decisions can be made by the people serving on grand juries and petty juries, but decisions on how much money should be spent on child care centers and defense spending are reserved for their “representatives”? Are the people really incapable of deciding whether to invade Angola or whether or not America ought to really consider drastic methods of conserving energy? Are people too stupid to determine whether or not corporate taxes should go down while Social Security taxes go up? Oh, come now.
What this comes down to is whether the American people are going to keep swallowing the line that 50 to 60 percent lawyers, 20 percent millionaires, and a clique of professional pols really grasp these problems better than the average American. It’s high time for the worm to turn. We believe, along with Alvin Toffler, that “you don’t have to be an expert to know what you want.” We believe that somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of the American Congress should be chosen at random from the American people in much the same way they are pressed into military service through drafts when they are deemed necessary.
The remaining 40 to 50 percent of Congress would still be elected. This would allow the Elite to maintain an important say in what policies emanate from the national legislature. […]
[…] We might also stagger both processes [sortition and election] like we do at present in the Senate so that one-third of the random half and one-third of the elected half are chosen every two years. To help guarantee their incorruptibility, our new Congresspeople out to be paid very well, more than the present salary schedule permits. Moreover, there should be a one-year pre-office period for on-the-job study and training. The newcomers can take courses, sit in on various committees of their interest, and get to know their way around the bureaucracy in Washington before assuming their new roles.
* I learned of this book from Peter Stone’s introduction to Callenbach and Phillips’s A citizen legislature.