Citizens Assemblies are increasingly popular ways to effect fundamental electoral reform.
"Average citizens" come together to learn about electoral systems, assess the one used in their polity and, if they so choose, send a reform proposal to referendum. Members usually receive a modest stipend. They can be elected or chosen at random. Oftentimes a minimum female presence is mandated. Other assemblies have been supplemented by parallel student assemblies, as in Ontario, Canada. Citizens Assemblies usually have a narrow mandate: to think about electoral systems alone - not term limits, campaign finance reform or anything else.
The success of a Citizens Assembly is rooted in its ability to generate serious reform without regard for the concerns of incumbent legislators whose political futures depend on the character of that reform. While the process is becoming common in Canada, there is widespread public support for similar initiatives in California, according to a December 2006 New America Foundation poll. [ View coverage ]