Citizens Assembly

To assemble citizens on a very large (national or large regional) scale requires a Citizens Assembly. Such a scheme has been used for CA electoral reform where very complex matters such as voting systems must be carefully studied and fully understood by the citizens.

Craig Hubley asks "why not just use a bioregional multi-member district scheme with mixed proportional members OF SOME KIND to elect a Citizens' Assembly, then let it do the work of explaining, diddling and proposing some alternate scheme, if it doesn't like the one that elected it?"

Andrew Basham says "Democracy is a process and a system. There is the election, but that is only the tool or measurement stick of policies and representatives. Their abilities and their shortcomings, the choice of the electorate. An election is also a process within democracy."

Definitions at LivingPlatform.CA itself include electoral reform, citizen initiative, bioregional democracy, Single Transferable Vote, voting system, e-democracy, democracy, deliberative democracy, participatory democracy, and others on the list of process terms.

(issue)) How do you elect an electoral system?

position "it should be a reflexive process, where a first-guess system is used to elect those people, and then the people elected that way can figure out what was wrong with that system that elected them (what other places, points of view and people were not represented fairly, etc.)" - Craig Hubley

issue How do you set the mandate of the Assembly?

position: "A delphi might also play a role to identify the issues and people most trusted to define the electoral system to be used to elect the Assembly - which is by default the one that the Assembly is submitting to the public - unless they find another system. The Assembly will not be allowed to submit exactly the same system, on the grounds that this means they did nothing, and have pronounced a system "perfect" simply because it elected THEM." - Craig Hubley. Elaine Pagels reported a similar 'unanimity is not consensus' rule from the old Jewish Sanhedrin court, in which a universally condemned man had to be let go on grounds he had obviously not had an adequate defense.

issue Are people solicited or is it advertised to all citizens?

position "Advertise to all, but, select with very strict filters, which include peer testing and rejection of all who don't understand certain legal norms and disciplines, e.g. learning and using terms in exact ways." - Craig Hubley

position use an Outreach Team to make that decision

(issue)) Are there barriers to participation for citizens and how can those barriers be eliminated or reduced?

position: "Education is always a barrier, as is care in writing or speech. The best way to eliminate those barriers is to educate: require those who would be in the Citizens' Assembly to take some serious *course* first in which they will be expected to master, and be tested on, the various voting systems in use or proposed worldwide." - Craig Hubley

issue Who is able to participate in the system? How are they heard?

position: do it in three phases:
  1. an online delphi to refine the terminology, education, course of study, and identify resources with knowledge, and Citizens who will do the work required, those who actually listen to their communities
  2. live education for all those interested in joining the Assembly
  3. live open space conference to finalize the criteria for joining the Assembly, mailed out to all those who ever expressed interest

The mark up and mail back scheme helps ensure that everyone has been "heard" in one medium or other in the way they know best how to contribute."

issue: Who is to make the final decisions of the CAs recommended report, who may vote in the Assembly?

position: Those who can credibly claim to represent the broadest view and have the most trust of those least like themselves. Those least self-interested, most representative. However that is determined - the job of the initial process itself. Just get it started and it'll fix itself. Design a process that evolves to select people who change the process. THere are examples, e.g. the game Nomic.

position: Parties should stand off. They're in conflict, and especially the leaders are in conflict:

argument: "The Green Party of BC lost a massive amount of political capital by looking like cry-babies when it didn't get its way on the proposed system." - Jon Walters. To which Craig Hubley adds that "a system that would have guaranteed her a legislative role without earning it was looked on negatively by the BC CA."

argument party lists are not a good way to determine seats as only about 1% of Canadians are party members. This means they are choosing for the other 99% of us.

counter-argument However that 1% is arguably representing many more people, and much more of the politically active people who are educated on issues and most likely to create "trouble". Accordingly they deserve more of a space, by the participatory democracy principle. Maybe as much as 5% or even 10% - but not much more - of the weight.

position: Design the default used to select the CA, and make it work online first. Easy. Use the bioregional multi-member district scheme outlined above.

argument Where MMP benefits parties it does not citizens as much. And where STV benefits citizens it reduces the arbitrary powers granted to parties, to create lists and to be the main gatekeepers of "democracy".

argument STV preserves the right relationship of people to the land.

argument However a bioregional scheme with fractional seats preserves the real bioregional borders, and allowes the leftover fractions to create enough additional MMP seats to get leaders and a couple of deputies into legislature if they weren't elected via STV.

issue As for women being elected under STV,

position There's no need to be concerned about this. It is merely a function of who is running and what the voters mark on the ballots. not the electoral system itself.

position Party lists can be ordered female-male-female-male by law, or gender can be a consideration on which under-represented party gets a seat.

issue decentralization and other ideology issues

position MMP does not live up to the Green value of decentralization

position True. But we must do something about the existing political units, degraded and ill-bordered as they are.