Political Lottery in Switzerland

Sortition, that is selection of political officials by lottery, was famously used in ancient Athenian democracy. It was also used, since XIV. century, in couple of city states in northern Italy.

A less well known fact is that it was also used in the Old Swiss Confederacy.

In canton Glarus, offices were originally filled by voting by show of hand at a public gathering (Landesgemeinde). However, buying of votes was widespread and the people have, over time, tried different measures to remedy the problem.

One can thus think of sortition in canton Glarus not as of a democratization measure, but rather as a way to make buying of votes more cost effective. After all, election bribery led to an increasingly costly arms race between powerful individuals and it was threatening to ruin entire families.

Taken from a great article by Lukas Leuzinger. The article (in German) contains much more interesting detail and can be found here.

October 8th, 2020

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