Sortition – government by jury
In our society elections and democracy are considered inseparable. In fact, this connection is far from clear. The ancient Greeks, for example, thought that elections are part and parcel of an oligarchy1. It was oligarchical Sparta, rather than democratic Athens, that elected its government.
The Athenians had a very different system: political offices were distributed using a lottery. The lottery method – known as Sortition – could be implemented here. If Congresspeople were drawn at random from the U.S. citizenry, Congress would not be an elite body made predominantly of rich, male, white, old lawyers2. Rather, it would look like a statistical sample of the people: it would contain 50% women, 28% hispanics and blacks, rich and poor, young and old, straight and gay, and very few lawyers.
More information on the sortition system can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition, and other online resources. One such resource is A Citizen Legislature by Ernest Callenbach and Michael Phillips – a book with a specific proposal for using sortition to select the U.S. House of Representatives. The book is available at http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC11/Calnbach.htm.
This blog, Equality-by-Lot, is devoted to discussion of issues associated with sortition and with the promotion of sortition as a tool of democracy.
 “[T]he appointment of magistrates by lot is thought to be democratic, and the election of them oligarchical, democratic again when there is no property qualification, oligarchical when there is.” Aristotle, Politics, book IV, 9.
 Of the 535 members of the 112th Congress there were 75 (14%) blacks and hispanics, 91 (17%) women, and 222 (41%) lawyers. The average age in Congress was 62, vs. 37 in the population. Sources: http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/R41647.pdf, 2009 population data – Statistical abstract of the U.S., 2011, Table 6.