The prospects for sortition as democratic innovation

This panel at the ECPR General Conference (Hamburg, 22-25 August) is organised by Harmen Binnema & Ank Michels, both at the Utrecht University, School of Governance as part of the section on “Democratic Innovations: Meeting Great Expectations?”

Topic: The idea of sortition dates back to ancient Athens, but only recently has this been reintroduced as an instrument for democratic innovation. Advocates of sortition argue that it enhances the diversity of participants, reduces conflict and provides a remedy for corruption and dominance of specific interests. In many countries we can see experiments with sortition, both at the national and at the local level, aiming to attract a diverse, representative group of citizens. 

When combined with a deliberative approach to decision making, the citizen conferences or summits for which participants are selected by lot, are expected to result in better and more creative ideas and proposals. However, these seem to be mainly theoretical advantages, as the empirical evidence so far is mixed. In various cases, sortition could not prevent a certain bias in participation and as a result, the topics that were addressed also displayed a certain bias. 

In this panel, we welcome papers that analyse and examine the actual effects of sortition, and the extent to which sortition can be seen as a promising form of democratic innovation. We invite both papers on individual cases and comparisons between different cases. Abstracts can be sent to Harmen Binnema ( before 1 February.