Yes. Experience has shown (see “Have Citizens’ Assemblies been used before?”) that, under the right circumstances, average people can make good decisions about very complex issues – they just generally lack the time and resources to do so. During a CA, the members are provided with all the resources and support they need to make an informed, thoughtful decision.
Absolutely. Many times. And very successfully. Our website at DemocracyWithoutElections.org/CITIZEN-ASSEMBLY has several examples
1. Once the participants are selected (by democratic lottery) they assemble in one place, as fellow citizens, to meet face-to-face.
2. Next, with the help of relevant experts and stakeholders, they study the issue until they have a comprehensive and deep understanding of it.
3. Then, they meet in small groups, moderated by a neutral facilitator, to learn from each other, deliberate, listen, talk, and exchange ideas.
4. The full assembly gathers together to discuss what has been learned in the small groups so that ideas can be diffused throughout the entire membership.
5. process repeats until a consensus emerges and a decision is made
There are a few pieces to this answer:
First, in a democracy, there is no higher authority than the citizen and, since a CA would be composed of ordinary citizens, they would be accountable to each other.
Second, membership is temporary so they would hold themselves accountable. With nothing to gain or lose politically but the security and prosperity of their own community, which they will soon be returning to, they have every incentive to act as conscientious citizens.
Third, assembly members would still be subject to the rule of law. Members who commit crimes, like bribery for example, would be held accountable by the justice system.
A Citizens’ Assembly is a group of ordinary citizens who are selected by a democratic lottery and then are brought together to learn, deliberate, and make decisions about an issue.
No. Democracy means rule by the people (literally “people power”). In a representative democracy, such as ours, elections are one way to select the people who rule, but democratic lotteries are another way (a better way).
Better representation. A lottery creates decision making bodies that reflect the makeup of the general population better than elected bodies.
There are no made-up games. Power is shared by the assembly as they deliberate to find wise solutions in all topics.
Many trial runs have already shown that given time, information and resources lottery picked groups successfully deliver community judgements on difficult issues. (Ask us for examples!)
No personal wealth is needed to be a representative. This reduces the perception and occurrence of corruption and enables everyone to serve.
We are them, they are us. With no opposition party to beat, representatives have time to study issues and a reason to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Representatives are free to speak and act in earnest and to “vote their conscience” rather than say what the party leadership tells them to say and to vote the way they are told to vote.
No party loyalty required. Only loyalty to our country and to each other matters.
In short, there would be no campaigning, money raising, partisan bickering, blaming, shaming, spinning, name calling, straw-manning, demonizing, or anti-intellectual pandering. In short, better mental health for us all.
To many, elections are democracy. Here we explore some ways in which elections are undemocratic!
Elected bodies are not representative. Most members of congress are old, white men and over 50% are millionaires. Election victory is determined by charisma and money. This is not very democratic.
Elections require money and lots of it. The link between money and politics screams possible corruption, which undermines confidence in our system. Politicians spend huge amounts of time raising money for re-election, rather than working on issues.
Elections are made–up competitions. The game of elections creates fake winners and losers. In reality, win-win situations exist but are not explored.
Voting silences important minority points of view. “Us versus them” thinking has led to ill will throughout our country, at all levels.
Elected politicians must listen to party leaders. Candidates gain party support during campaigns, and avoid being “primaried”, by “toeing the party line”. Shouldn’t they be listening to constituents instead?
Elected politicians are partisan. Working with the opposition can be seen as betrayal of your party. Democracy requires not just finding common ground but also a willingness to negotiate and compromise.
Elections favor well connected individuals. The government is perceived as “the other”, especially amongst the least well connected. In America, we are supposed to be the government and the government is supposed to be us… you and me!
Elections force candidates toward simplistic messaging. Voters have limited time and information with which to think about complex issues. It is quicker to appeal to our emotions rather than our heads. Complex issues are shrunk down to slogans that lack nuance and detail.
In a nutshell, our democracy is not working and we have lost trust and confidence in our
government mostly BECAUSE of elections.
Any mechanism that is transparent and verifiable and that guarantees that every eligible person has an exactly equal chance of being selected can be used.
It depends on what you get in exchange. If you think voting has provided you with a government that serves you well, then no, we would not expect you to want to change anything. However, if you are unhappy with the results that come from a system where you are allowed to vote only for one of two political parties, or are just tired of all the slanted, simplistic rhetoric during political campaigns, then yes, maybe trading your vote for citizens assemblies would be better.
Also, given the low turnout for elections over the last few decades, it seems that many believe that voting is futile.
A democratic lottery (aka sortition) is a lottery used to select a group of citizens from the general population in such a way that every citizen has an exactly equal chance of being selected. This leads to a body that reflects the makeup of the general citizenry much more accurately than an elected body
Imagine a Congress that actually looks like America. It’s filled with nurses, farmers, engineers, waitresses, teachers, accountants, pastors, soldiers, stay-at-home-parents, and retirees. They are conservatives, liberals, and moderates from all parts of the country and all walks of life. Democratic lotteries are the only way to achieve such a Congress. Democratic Lotteries guarantee a Congress that is descriptively representative of the American public.
They are vetted. As part of the process of finding experts their claims of education and experience are verified. Also, anyone who might personally benefit or lose depending on the outcome of the assemblies decision or anyone who is associated with anyone, or any organization, that might benefit or lose depending on the outcome of the assembly’s decision would be excluded as an expert.
The assembly leaders would have the primary responsibilities for finding experts. However, if there is a particular person that an assembly member would like included as an expert, that person would be allowed – as long as they pass the vetting process.