Emotions, Elections and Citizens’ Assemblies

Citizens' assembly in action
Citizens’ assembly in action

If you haven’t already read the article The End of Elections, please take a look before continuing–everything will make a lot more sense.

Emotions and technology are eroding elections. Here is a deeper look at the citizens’ assemblies solution followed by how they are being used in the Republic of Ireland to remove pivotal issues from the political landscape.

Citizens’ assemblies are at the center of the solution. They have been used hundreds of times around the world and have a set of well-defined traits that insure impartiality and integrity, including:

  • Citizens’ assemblies are generally commissioned to solve one issue.
  • Panelists for the citizens’ assembly are selected by democratic lottery and are a representative microcosm of the general public.
  • Panelists generally serve for one assembly, i.e. they are disbanded at the conclusion of the assembly. There are no career panelists!
  • The assembly has access to a wide range of accurate and relevant evidence from experts and stakeholders.
  • Panelists deliberate to find common ground for their collective recommendations.
  • A citizens’ assembly is managed by impartial moderators who create the conditions that promote discussion, reflection and resolution.
  • The entire process is transparent, yet the privacy of panelists is protected.
  • The outcome should influence public decisions, either by the government taking direct action or by publicly responding to them.

Citizens’ assemblies are the place where informed public judgement occurs. Panelists study the issues in an environment that fosters learning, contemplation and resolution of the issues. The legislative and referendum processes seldom come close to informed public judgement. Nonetheless, it is rare for citizens’ assemblies to make the final decision on issues and are generally limited to making recommendations to legislative bodies and referendums.

Could a democratic lottery put the wrong sort of people on a panel? It is less likely because stratified sampling ensures that specific demographics like ethnicity and income are representative of the population from which they are chosen. If a ‘wrong’ kind of individual or two are selected, they would be overshadowed by the panel of 40+ people.

The use of citizens’ assemblies in the Republic of Ireland show that they work in situations like ours. This video explores the abortion issue in Ireland and how the citizens’ assembly was an integral part of the solution.

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly on abortion

Ireland hasn’t stopped after solving the abortion issue. They have tackled a number of issues, and demonstrates that citizens’ assemblies are effective.

What can you do help?

  • Talk about the article and citizens’ assemblies to friends and on social media.
  • Contact your Member of Congress.
  • Think about the people you know who have a connection to power. Educate them and recruit them to the cause with an eye towards promoting the use of a citizens’ assembly to solve a local or state issue. Our organization can help you do this.
  • Use your professional megaphone to speak about the problem, ethics and professional responsibility in areas like technology, social media, investing and the election industry.
  • Redirect election donations to organizations that could fix the framework of elections.
  • And get involved in Democracy Without Elections!