Choosing Representatives by Lottery Voting


Amar, A.R. (1984). “Choosing Representatives by Lottery Voting”. In The Yale Law Journal, 93 (7), 1283-1308. New Haven: The Yale Law Journal Company.

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ISSN: 0044-0094

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Type of work: Article (academic)


Politics and Political Science




Current electoral systems, though purporting to count votes equally, in fact create legislatures that fail to represent the whole community. This Note presents a thought experiment inviting the reader to consider seriously an alternative method of selecting representatives to legislatures that combines features of four traditional egalitarian systems: voting, lottery, quota, and rotation. Under "lottery voting," citizens would vote for representatives in local districts, much as they do today. Rather than automatically electing the candidate who receives a majority or plurality of votes, however, lottery voting chooses the winner in a lottery of the ballots cast: A single ballot is randomly drawn, and the candidate chosen on that ballot wins the election.' If A receives sixty percent of the overall vote and B gets forty percent, A does not automatically win; rather, A's ex ante chances of winning are sixty percent and B's are forty percent.'

Section I of the Note examines the puzzle of minority participation in a majoritarian political system and suggests that justice for minorities may require a new method of selecting legislatures; Section II discusses the American jury and other historical uses of political lotteries; Section III sketches the implications of lottery voting and demonstrates how it could be used to create a richer democracy; and Section IV surveys the practical and constitutional limitations on lottery voting as a mechanism of social choice. The ideas presented furnish a novel perspective on various problems of democratic and constitutional theory.