Political philosopher Jamie Whyte (via Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy) recently proposed an interesting solution to the problem of political ignorance. Political ignorance is a symptom of large democracies which causes voters to have little reason to extensively research issues. Whyte proposes that we should have "national juries," small groups of people randomly selected for each election whose job it would be to research the issues for a given election and then vote on behalf of the entire nation. In Whyte's words:
So what is the best way to improve modern politics? The answer is not to increase voter turnout. On the contrary, the number of voters should be drastically reduced so that each voter realizes that his vote will matter. Something like 12 voters per district should be about right. If you were one of these 12 voters then, like one of 12 jurors deciding if someone should be imprisoned, you would take a serious interest in the issues.Somin thinks the idea is flawed, for reasons he outlines in his post. I agree, but it's at least an interesting proposal that should be considered as a thought experiment, if nothing more.
These 12 voters should be selected at random from the electorate. With 535 districts in Congress – 435 in the House and 100 in the Senate – there would be 6,420 voters nationally....
To safeguard against the possibility of abuse, these 6,420 voters would not know that they had been selected at random until the moment when the polling officers arrived at their house. They would then be spirited away to a place where they will spend a week locked away with the candidates, attending a series of speeches, debates and question-and-answer sessions before voting on the final day. All of these events should be filmed and broadcast, so that everyone could make sure that nothing dodgy was going on.
Some will complain that this system would disenfranchise most of the population. It would not, because every adult would be eligible for random selection. Of course, each of us would have a tiny chance of being selected. But, on the current system, it is equally improbable that any individual’s vote will make a difference to the election’s outcome. The difference with this “jury” system is that those whose votes make a difference would know who they are. And that would give them a reason to take the job seriously.