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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Opinion

Texas should try sortition democracy


red state of texas replaced by sortition democracy

Renee Josse De Lisle/The Cougar

Texas democracy is immensely broken. Sortition democracy, a government by random selection, might be the best way to fix it. 

The idea is that a simple random sample or stratified sample of the population will provide a group that is far better suited to represent the genuine views of residents than a collection of politicians.

In recent years, Texas has become notorious for its anti-democratic policies. Key among them is the state’s rampant gerrymandering.

Even though roughly 60 percent of residents are nonwhite, in Texas’s new political maps, fifty percent of congressional districts have white majorities. 

Texas’s elections also suffer from severe voter suppression and the use of majoritarian first past the post voting, a system that has frequently been deemed by political scientists as one of the least representative.

This democracy deficit has come with real costs. In 2021, the failure of lawmakers to prepare the state power grid for extreme weather cost the state 200 billion dollars and over 700 lives. 

In addition, as of 2016, Texas provided a massive $60 billion in corporate subsidies annually. All of this has occurred as state funding for schools has been slashed and middle-class Texans have been increasingly crushed by rising property tax bills. 

These facts should not come as a surprise. A government cannot be for the people if the government is not by the people. 

Sortition offers a promising mechanism by which Texas’s Democracy problem can be rectified. 

Sortition has existed since the inception of Democracy but it has recently returned to the political vogue as people have sought to create a better alternative to representative democracy. 

A sortition-based citizens assembly would be reserved for a randomly selected group of citizens, unlike the modern Texas Legislature where the upper and lower house is filled with elected representatives. 

To elaborate, these citizens would study topics thoroughly with the help of key stakeholders and experts and then work together to craft policy. A new group would be chosen by lottery and the cycle would repeat itself. 

There are a plethora of potential benefits citizens assemblies could offer over Texas’s traditional elected congress.

Researchers found that participants in their sortition experiment moderated on issues and created consensus policy proposals. 

Many citizens assemblies have been launched over the last few decades. Scotland has committed strongly to relying more heavily on them in the future. 

Overall, the case for sortition in Texas is clear. The present-day legislative model is failing to represent the genuine interests of the people.

Building a Texas that works better for its residents will require open-minded and innovative approaches that fix the institutions that are at the origin of many of the state’s problems. 

Sortition is a method that has been demonstrated to produce decisions that are trusted by the population and highly competent.

It’s time for Texas to give it a try.

Micah Erfan is an economics freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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