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Mixing election and sortition

Posted by Romain on

A lucky few love to select using a dice, and some wonder: « how can sortition coexist with the existing elective system? ». Selecting using pure luck might be a daunting prospect if you want to replace elections, and we need to build a synergy between the two. I discuss here about two ways to use random selection combined with voting.

I want first to restate my firm opposition to volunteers’ list. Random selection enables to represent the population we sample from. The draw will select in this case only the people who wants power and like Alain wrote: « they are he worst kind to govern ». Moreover, it happens that the low number of volunteers renders sortition pointless. Therefore, I prefer a list like electoral register.

You can use sortition either before or after.

Demorun has employed it before to build its list of candidates. They used the electoral register to randomly select their potential nominees. They then go and visit them to make them sign a charter determining their task and under which rules they could be revoked – a 20% fraction of the voters needed after one year (if I remember correctly).

Two tools to select. Right, An American ballot box from 1880. Romain Cazé CC-BY

It is also possible to cast the dice after the vote. It validates sortition in this case. This completely depersonalize politics and weakens the elected politicians who now need to listen carefully to voters if they don’t want to be revoked. This usage seems more suited for « smaller » type of elections with less stakes. The sample remains small in this case, one could then use the lists of all members from a cooperative, party or union.

In conclusion, the decision to pick before or after the vote depends on many factors. The use before the vote enables to inject momentum in the campaign and fit well with a municipal or regional scale. Using chance after the vote can rapidly create a union or a cooperative executive board. Notably, the following or preceding elections are mandatory in Non Governmental Organization because national laws often enforce the executive board’s members election.

Thank you for reading! As usual I welcome comments.


Selecting a person from the crowd with a dice (or two).

Posted by Romain on

We use a single dice (or coin) in the current version of the method to randomly select a moderator. I employ the latter method for two reasons. Firstly,  the method is easily and practically feasible: everyone has a coin and on a lucky day one person has a dice. Secondly, the method stands midway between a list made of volunteers and an all inclusive list, since the (non-)volunteers can go sit either near or far from the coin/dice caster. The method can be easily explained and worked nicely during my previous experiments.

But, I recently thought about another method (see a former post). I called this second method the dichotomy method. The method consists in dividing the main group into subgroups. For instance, an even sized group can be divided in two, we pick the first for heads and the second for tails. You can then reiterate the process until we sort a single person. A dice enables to deal with situation for groups dividable in two or three subgroups. You face an unsolvable problem with prime numbers-sized groups as you need to have non-overlapping and equal subgroups  to guarantee that all people could be selected with the same probability.

I want in this post to introduce a third method called the enumeration method. This method works in a group with less than 36 people.  Someone casts two dices (or on die twice), of different colours one representing the unit and the other the tens (see illustration below enumerating all possibilities). We start counting from the caster (11 is the thrower then 12 up to 65, 66). If there are less than 36 people you can re-throw when you obtain a throw larger than the group size. The group might also contain 9 or 18 people, here a person respectively corresponds to three or two possible distinct throws.

One the left the prime numbers up to 2500. On the right, all the possible draws (36) with two dice. Romain Cazé CC-BY

For most situations a single dice already covers our needs. Groups of 6 are large enough for a lively discussion. A group larger than 36 becomes rapidly unmanageable.

Thank you for reading! If you have any other methods or suggestions or if you think we should only peak volunteers please comment below.

P.S.: thank you Ambre for the proof-reading.


Selecting a person from a crowd with a coin

Posted by Romain on

The first argument against sortition is how do we draw a name in a group larger than six (do we use a special dice?). This practical problem has multiple solutions. I’ll describe here two of them using a coin:

The first solution consists in having a limited list based on a arbitrary criteria. For instance to select the first:head or the second:tails person on the left of the thrower. You can make the power turns by the rotation of the moderator’s duty, e.g. using thumbs up to restart a designation.

This solution seems convenient. It can easily be done and has a minimal practical requirement: a coin. It has, however, a big disadvantage: if you want a moderator for a long period of time, you limit yourself to a tiny list of people; this put a bias as the thrower determines this tiny list of people, you can then ask: how do we choose the thrower?

Two incarnation of combinatorics power: selection of 3 among 5 and grain of sands. Image credit Romain Cazé CC-BY

A second solution consists in using a coin to split the group into subgroups and to do multiple coin flips. The thrower would be the only person that could not be elected in this case (good to protect against conflict of interest). The procedure is as following: one divides the group in two, if the number of people is even no problem; if it is odd a single person will belong to both groups and will be in the next phase whatever the result. This last measure guarantees that everyone has exactly the same chance to be selected. Subgroups of different sizes would make some people more prone to be selected. For example with three people you cannot make a subgroup of two and a subgroup of one, the person in the second group would be selected after a single throw. Repeating coin flips enables to divide more and more until one person is selected. This method yields a selected person rapidly and enables to select a person in a group of size two power n with n+1 throws.

Thank you for reading! If it is not clear and you have questions or if you think of another practical way please comment.

P.S: This post contains a mistake. There is no way to use « the dichotomy method » presented here and to keep the equiprobability property. The subgroup needs to be of equal size AND disjoint for the method to work. It means that for groups that cannot be divided in two this method is not working. But I do not give up! More in a following post.


Stochocratie or Sortition?

Posted by Romain on

Stochocratie or stochocracy in English refers to a political sytem using randomness at its core. Stochos comes from the greek word meaning randomness. This word signifies a larger idea than sortition and point to a goal rather than a mean. This term describes a more radical position, an ideology. Stochocracy can look like it contradicts the word Democracy. As oppose to sortition that goes well with Democracy. And our democratic regimes might seems dysfunctional to many, yet they stand as the least dysfunctional system on earth.

It would be a foolish and headstrong idea to go against democracy that has a very positive connotation. This explains why I prefer the word sortition rather than stochocracy. Sortiton points toward a tool, as I said yesterday, but stochocracy points toward a goal. This focus on a tool provides a much more laid back approach to the problem. This calmer approach helps not only for my well being but also works in the interest of sortition. People adopt a tool far more easily than an ideology and it is far less risky to promote a tool rather than an ideology.

Sortition could be used both in French and in English. This has also its importance. I stumbled upon the blog of the kleroterians (see picture above) and I found many people motivated by the sortition idea. Yoram Gat started this blog with others motivated individuals in 2012. This beg for humility, it has worked on it for six years now, an considerable quantity of work went into it. And for me things just began less than two years ago! With this blog, I found people motivated by sortition and many come from the anglo-saxon world. It exemplifies another thing I like about  sortition: finding a common middle ground enjoyable for everybody.


First come, first served?

Posted by Romain on

Image used to illustrate the sortition process at the convention France Insoumise

This English saying states that people who arrive first will have a priority access to a good or a service. This seems like the fairest way to distribute. But people who know first, for instance who have the easiest or fastest access to internet, have an edge. And this is by definition aristocratic and not democratic. The « Aristo », the first to know, have an advantage over the « Demos », the average person. It splitss people in two categories: the ones that know and the ones that don’t.

Could sortition offer an alternative? Using this method, attendants would be selected randomly among a list of candidates. This method could be applied in distinct situations. Three situations can be taken as examples: music festivals, scientific conferences or political meetings. In all cases, these events tend to re-occur years after years and have a limited number of seats available. Furthermore, the introduction of new people has a crucial importance, mostly in conferences and meetings. But if these events are a success, people attending the previous year will be the first to subscribe for the coming year. While it has a positive effect at the beginning giving momentum to the event. This would, after a while, notably diminishes the introduction of new people every year.

Sorting the attendance to a meeting needs to be carefully planned abd organized. Multiple points need to be taken into account: (1) attribute a unique identifier to each candidate (2) use a reproducible allotment. The second point guarantees the legitimity of the allotment. If it can be reproduce, for instance by using the same random seed, it has much more credibility. The first point guarantees that everyone has a chance. These are only two points that would deserve careful examination but they are surely more. What do you think?




Sorting a moderator

Posted by Romain on

An arbitrarily chosen person flips a coin. Tail the first person on the left of the thrower becomes the moderator; heads its the second.

When the moderator resigns or when a third or more of people thumb up a new sortition begins. The former moderator flips the coin to make the power turns.

One can use a dice instead of a coin. In this case the nth person on the left of the dice becomes the moderator.