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Research Article

Democracy Transformed: Perceived Legitimacy of the Institutional Shift from Election to Random Selection of Representatives


Simon Pek ,

Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, CA
About Simon

Simon Pek: Simon Pek works as an Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Organization Theory at the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. Through his research, he explores how organizations and the individuals within them embed social and environmental sustainability into their cultures, strategies, and daily operations. Specifically, he looks at new forms of practicing democracy in organizations, the micro-processes of sustainability-oriented cultural change, and sustainability-related issues in the domain of international business.

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Jeffrey Kennedy,

Faculty of Law, McGill University, CA
About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Kennedy: Jeffrey Kennedy is a doctoral candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, where he researches and writes primarily at the intersections of deliberative democracy and public decision-making pertaining to criminal justice. Outside the University, he is actively involved in community-based projects involving prisoner reintegration and democratic experimentation.

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Adam Cronkright

Democracy In Practice, BO
About Adam

Adam Cronkright: Adam Cronkright is one of the co-founders of Democracy In Practice, a non-profit dedicated to democratic experimentation, innovation, and capacity building. His passion for democracy and deliberation has led to a broad base of experience, which includes an independent study of the jury system; dialoguing with members of the 2011 Icelandic Constituent Council; co-facilitating two NYC General Assemblies; co-writing the Spokes-Council Proposal at Occupy Wall Street; and teaching and learning at the democratically-run Brooklyn Free School.

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While democracy remains a firmly-held ideal, the present state of electoral democracy is plagued by growing disaffection. As a result, both scholars and practitioners have shown considerable interest in the potential of random selection as a means of selecting political representatives. Despite its potential, deployment of this alternative is limited by concerns about its perceived legitimacy. Drawing on an inductive analysis of the replacement of elections with random selection in two student governments in Bolivia, we explore stakeholders’ perceptions of the legitimacy of random selection by investigating both their overall support for randomly selecting representatives as well as the views that inform this support. Overall, we find that random selection is indeed accepted as a legitimate means of selecting representatives, with stakeholders broadly preferring random selection and recommending its use in other schools—views which are informed by a critical assessment of random selection’s relative merits. Moreover, we find that perceptions may be affected by contextual factors that extend beyond individuals’ own values. Our findings thus contribute to work on random selection, its contextual embeddedness, and on the values underpinning democratic structures.

How to Cite: Pek, S., Kennedy, J., & Cronkright, A. (2018). Democracy Transformed: Perceived Legitimacy of the Institutional Shift from Election to Random Selection of Representatives. Journal of Public Deliberation, 14(1), 3. DOI:
Published on 03 Jun 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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