Government Proposals Congress Elections By Lottery Part 2

About a government proposal to change Congressional elections to a lottery or jury duty style format.



Some may argue that a Congress of random Americans would allow greedy, unsophisticated people to abuse their years in office by taking bribes, getting drunk, and partying. But take a look at recent, and even not so recent, history. Alcoholism is twice as common among members of Congress as it is in the population at large. Corruption and womanizing are also already painfully commonplace in Washington. Could it really be any worse?

So how would such a new system work? If the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate were replaced every two years, it would cause chaos. A better method would be for four congressional districts to change representatives each week. That way there would be a complete turnover every two years without serious disruption or discontinuity. Senators would still serve six-year terms, but there would be one new senator every three weeks.

As the end of a congressperson's term of office neared completion, back in his or her district a successor would be chosen by lottery from the list of registered voters (who would still be voting for propositions, state offices, and the U.S. presidency). This new person would be required to pass a test dealing with the Constitution. Those who failed would then receive six weeks of instruction from a tutor. Anyone failing the test a second time would be replaced by an alternate, already waiting in the wings. The new senator or representative would serve an apprenticeship of 8 to 10 weeks, learning the job from the outgoing officeholder.

I realize that many problems would develop during the transition to a nonelected Congress, but I believe that the basic honesty and ingenuity of the American people would allow such a system to succeed.

David Wallechinsky

Santa Monica, Calif.

P.S. In case you are wondering how the composition of Congress would change if the members were chosen at random instead of elected, here is a chart that compares the two systems.

Current Congress Typical New Congress

Women 17 268

Blacks 16 67

Poor people 0 60

Lawyers 270 2

Businessmen 156 22

Teachers 34 12

FBI agents 6 0

Clergy 5 1

Athletes 4 0

Secretaries 1 13

Housewives 0 110

Unemployed 0 37

Salesclerks 0 9

Truck drivers 0 7

Carpenters 0 5

Registered nurses 0 4

Auto mechanics 0 4

Waitresses 0 4

Farm workers 0 3

Cosmetologists 0 2

Maids 0 2

Plumbers 0 1

Firemen 0 1

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