Lottery-Selected Politicians? Start Thinking Outside The Ballot Box

Nov 13, 2020

If there is one thing a majority of Americans can agree on, it is that we do not have much trust in our federal government. Congress currently boasts an 19% approval rating and presidential approval has dropped steadily for decades, according to Gallup. Despite these trends, citizens continue rallying around elections with the dream that this time will be different. But did you ever vote for the electoral system itself?

Every four years, we toy with reforms — abolishing the electoral college, ranked choice voting, AI-designed congressional districts, etc. Alex Guerrero wants the U.S. to open its imagination and allow for more creative solutions.


Host Frank Stasio talks with Guerrero, an associate professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, about whether lottery-selected leaders could improve age-old byproducts of representative democracy, like corruption, responsiveness and representation in government. There is historical precedent for the system. In ancient Greece, randomly selected leaders were considered essential to a fair and representative democracy. You also might recognize the lottery method if you have ever been called for jury duty.

European traditions of governance were uncommon outside the continent in the 17th century, now they are considered the status quo and enforced by international standards. In what is now eastern North Carolina, the Tuscarora Nation relied on gender to check and balance political power. Councils of elderly women selected and advised a hierarchy of chiefs. Men were required to give up possessions to assume the powerful position and were always beholden to the advice and ultimate authority of the grandmothers, who could dehorn them at any time and choose a new leader. Stasio discusses the history and power of this system with Arwin Smallwood, professor and chair of history and political science at North Carolina A&T State University.


But are any of these lessons useful to North Carolina voters today? Rosemary F. Blizzard joins the show to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for reform in our state. Blizzard is the communications director for the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center and a former director for the Wayne and Duplin County Boards of Elections.


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