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July 3, 2009

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A California Constitutional Convention

The setup:

With the state’s fiscal woes mounting and Sacramento seemingly frozen in place, a group of California leaders has proposed a constitutional convention as a way to fix the Golden State’s deeply entrenched structural problems.

But how do you organize the convention? I really like the sound of this scheme:

RANDOM SELECTION: This method might sound the strangest but actually may hold the most promise. It has been used in Canada and elsewhere. A scientific sampling of Californians would be randomly selected from the statewide voter list, like a jury pool.

The Bay Area Council, a group of business leaders, has proposed randomly selecting 400 Californians to create a body of average citizens who could bring their common sense and pragmatism to the problems at hand. Those delegates would be paid to participate for eight months, starting with an intensive two-month education process in which they would hear from many experts about the problems and potential solutions for California.

It’s like deliberative polling with teeth!

It’s not without problems, of course — but to me they seem like better problems than the ones you get with appointed or elected bodies. And keep in mind, a randomly-selected group would be generating policy options which would then be voted on by everyone else in California, so it’s not like we would, er, skip democracy entirely.

Posted July 3, 2009 at 12:40 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


I'm having fun imagining getting the letter for this - like a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's magic... sausage factory. Or maybe a Jane McGonigal ARG.
I bet most of the controversy would focus on the "CA SNAFU 101" crash course, which would have to be disclosed to the public. I'm dorky enough that I'd probably watch all the lectures and read the syllabus (and I don't even live in CA). But what's on the syllabus, anyway? What about extracurricular reading?
I wonder if the lucky winners have to avoid outside media, like a jury? Maybe they'll even be anonymous. There's no end to the comedy & intrigue you could fold in, it'd make a great story.

Posted by: Jake on July 3, 2009 at 06:51 PM

Or a reality show! What if it really /was/ a reality show? Produced by a team that was actually legit & serious-minded -- but also knew how to make it riveting. It could be the greatest civics lesson of the century.

Produced by a team that was actually legit & serious-minded -- but also knew how to make it riveting.

If only we knew someone who worked at a serious but fun television company. . .

The LATimes article reminded me of a previous Snarkmarket post about the new Japanese juries. I like the idea of mixing all three components. Some elected people, some random representative draftees, and some appointed experts.

There's a huge assumption/flaw in the LAT article. I think I'm going to ponder it a bit and then blog about it myself, so that my excessive linking doesn't tick off the Snarkatron. ;-)

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