Jury Democracy
or
Government by Informed Consent

“Effectively, I will not be governor—WE ALL WILL BE!  I will give the power to you!”

What would be the characteristics of an ideal government?  It would produce decisions in this way:

  • Decisions made by every citizen, not just by a single dictator or president and not just by a small number of representatives or the elites of society.

  • Decisions made with full information and after careful consideration of all evidence and arguments and with respectful, open-minded discussion about the decision among the decision makers; not made based on snap emotion or limited and biased information. 

  • Decisions made by consensus where possible and not be 51% imposing their will on 49%.

 

Obviously, our current system falls short of these goals.  But that is necessary, right?  We do not have time for everyone in society to stop their lives to carefully consider all the evidence on every issue that our government has to decide. 

            Does it have to be this way?  Can we achieve a better government?

            Yes, we can.  The way is a new idea I call Jury Democracy.

 

            Jury Democracy is a system of government of having large juries (about 500 to 2,000 persons) of randomly selected citizens, where the juries constitute statistically valid samples of the citizenry or voters, make policy decisions for government after seeing full informed debate on the policy, being given full information for and against the policy, and fully deliberating and discussing the decision with equally informed citizens in the same jury. 

            For bills enacted into law, the jury can replace one house of the elected legislature or be added as an additional house of the legislature or replace the elected legislature entirely, so every law to be enacted must be approved by a citizen jury.  The jury would hear full debate from both or all sides on a proposed bill, be given all the facts and information for and against whatever bill is being considered, just like a jury in a civil or criminal trial is given, be given the required time to read the bill in full (which would already make them better informed than most legislators or congresspeople), then break into smaller subgroups of 12 persons and deliberate and argue for and against the bill under consideration within that subgroup of 12, and then each juror would vote in secret for or against the bill, with a vote in favor of 55% required for passage of a bill.  A 55% requirement for passage would insure at least majority support had one been able to convene every voting-age citizen or registered voter into the jury for the same deliberations because it would be outside the statistical margin of error, which would be less than ±5% with a group of 500 or more. 

            Each jury would be called for just one vote or issue and serve for only the time needed to consider that vote or issue, which in most cases would be only one or two days.  In this way, each citizen would be invited for this jury service no more often than once per year. Probably we should shoot for about once ever four years to not burden people too much.  Participation would be voluntary. 

            In addition to considering bills to be passed into statutes, as the legislature does, large citizen juries can also consider and decide proposed regulations and regulatory decisions, as the executive branch does, and can supersede or constitute the supreme court to decide judicial decisions and the constitutionality of laws, as the judicial branch does.

 

Jury Democracy is an improvement on traditional elected representative democracy because:

  • Decisions are made based on reasoned debate with both or all sides being given the opportunity to make their case regardless of their wealth and power.  Thereby, decisions are uninfluenced by campaign finance or the biases of the media.

  • Jurors will have to read and attend full debate on the bills they vote on, whereas elected legislators often do not have time to even read the bills they vote on and have already made up their minds on most issues so they do not attend or consider debate.

  • All segments of society are proportionally represented in the decision-makers, including especially the young and the poor and middle class, as well as women and ethnic minorities, without any need for quotas or affirmative action.

  • Each separate policy enacted has majority support because it is voted on separately.  In contrast, with representative democracy a voter votes for a candidate of a party and likely agrees with only some of the policies supported by that candidate or party.  Thus, the winning candidate or party enacts many policies that do not have majority support. 

                       

Jury Democracy is an improvement on referendum and initiative because:

  • Decisions are made based on reasoned debate, uninfluenced by campaign finance (in this case finance for and against the issue instead of finance for a candidate) or the biases of the media.

  • Decisions are made based on full information and due deliberation rather than snap emotion.  Everyone voting in a jury has sat through full debate and has been asked to and given time to read the bill, regulation, or decision being proposed, and then discussed it with 11 other equally informed citizens before voting.  In a referendum, the voter likely saw just one 30 second commercial by only one side on the issue, in some cases not even that, and then makes a snap judgment based on no more than one paragraph written on the ballot.

  • The proposal can be whatever length is necessary with full details, even a 100-page bill or longer, whereas a referendum needs to be described in no more than 3 or 4 sentences, which requires that it be dumbed down and that numerous details be left undecided to be determined later by the legislature, governor, or unelected bureaucrats, and influenced by money and back-room dealing. 

                       

            My other name for Jury Democracy is “Government by Informed Consent” because every decision is made and enacted only if it has the consent of a majority of citizens after the citizens have been given full information and taken the time for full consideration of the decision.  In other words, no policy (statute, regulation, regulatory decision, or final judicial decision) can be enacted without the informed consent of a majority of the citizens the policy is being imposed on.    

 

            As Governor, before I sign any important or controversial bill into law, I will submit it to a citizen jury of at least 500 people.  If the jury approves the bill, I will sign it into law; if it rejects the bill, I will veto it.  Effectively, I will not be governor—WE ALL WILL BE!  I will give the power to you!

 

            I will also submit my own bills to juries for consideration and invite non-profits and interest groups of all political persuasions to draft bills and submit them to juries for consideration.  We should also have every elected legislator, whether in the majority or a minority party, have the right to submit a bill to a jury once during every 2-year period.  All types of ideas can be considered, no matter how far outside the box or outside what is deemed acceptable opinion by our elites.  Collectively, we have an enormous number of great ideas out there!  Let’s give them a hearing!

            I will also use a large jury and have its decision be binding for every important regulatory decision.  Do we allow a wolf hunt?  I believe absolutely not!  But I am willing to submit it to a citizen jury and be bound by its decision.   Do we allow a copper-nickel mine to be developed and potentially (in reality, certainly) pollute our surface waters and ground waters for centuries, whether the Boundary Waters or Lake Superior, or other waters?  Again, I would say no.  In fact, I would say “over my dead body.”  But I would have a jury hear the issue.  I am confident it would reach the right decision.