Randomly Selected Constitutional Convention Delegates

Dear John,
Thanks for your note. I’m not sure I have an answer to your specific question about shifts (towards random selection) in the way delegates are chosen for constitutional conventions, but here are a few resources in the general area of randomly selected citizens deciding important public issues, including the shape of their governance:
1. Five books

* A CITIZEN LEGISLATURE by Ernest Callenbach and Michael Phillips

* RANDOM SELECTION IN POLITICS by Lyn Carson and Brian Martin



* BY POPULAR DEMAND by John Gastil


2. The Wikipedia article on Sortition

Among the many things in this article and the above books is the fact that the Athenian democracy so honored in American political mythos, was largely run by random selection.
3. The paper written by the Steven Hill you mention, announced in a press release at
http://www.newamerica.net/pressroom/2009/new_report_recommends_citizen_delega… or http://tinyurl.com/ne7n3j

4. The Citizen’s Parliament in Australia, an initiative in which my colleague and friend Janette Hartz-Karp — one of the most brilliant, innovative and successful public engagement organizers in the world — was intimately involved. Randomly selected citizens were convened to make recommendations on improving Australian democracy.

5. The official British Columbia Citizen Assembly on Electoral Reform, made up of randomly selected citizens, made recommendations on a new electoral system (which was then voted on by the electorate twice, losing both times despite opinion polls showing adequate public support). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens%27_Assembly_on_Electoral_Reform_(Britis… or

6. The Citizen Initiative Review passed into a new state law in Oregon through which ballot initiatives will be reviewed by randomly selected groups of citizens.
7. The Citizen Initiative Review was sponsored by another great resource, the Jefferson Center
which has a great page of articles that may be useful at
8. Jim Rough’s now international work on the randomly selected Wisdom Council
I’m cc’ing Lyn, Jim, Janette, and Ned who might have further useful info.
Thanks for your work on this. Blessings on the Journey.
At 7:39 PM -0700 7/20/09, John P. Falchi wrote:
  You were one of the first friends who I wanted to talk to about the conference that a few of us from San Diego attended Saturday, 7/19 at U.S.C. on a CA Constitutional Convention. Although some of the people who planned the convention are obviously in league with the old boy political party system of arranging for such a Constitutional Convention. There was at least one person on the program whose ideas, I believe, are aligned with yours in the realm of citizen councils and deliberative democracy. His name is Steven Hill, and he represented the New America Foundation. Someone represented that foundation who was also on the board of CA Common Cause several years ago for a Defending Democracy Conference that I helped to put together at the First UU Church of San Diego. Before he spoke in the afternoon session related to things like Delegate Selection, I had introduced some of Jim Rough’s ideas on the value of greater citizen participation in such a convention in a comment and question I put to the morning session. So, I was very gratified to hear his brief presentation on “A Citizens Constitutional Convention for California: How to Avoid Partisanship and Special Interest Influence.”
  Many of the afternoon questioners pooh poohed the idea of a random system of picking citizen delegates to such a convention. Nevertheless, I found some supporters in the crowd.
  Common Cause is having a program in San Diego on the possibility of a CA Constitutional Convention on 8/01/09, but I see in their announcement of the meeting little that would indicate that there will be formal coverage of this type of thrust on their program. I may of course bring this up in the form of a question in the Q and A period, but I would like to go further and provide some written documentation of instances where there have been shifts in the way in which delegates have been chosen for events this momentous in the U.S. and in other countries.

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