Let's Pick Members of Congress at Random

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Anyone who managed to stay awake during their classes in high school knows how members of Congress are selected. People who wish to run for office set up campaigns and the parties hold primary races to determine candidates. Then a general election is held and the person with the most votes is sworn in at the beginning of the next session. So how's that been working out? According to many, not all that well, really. With that in mind, Rasmussen has once again asked the public if we might be better off if we just randomly selected people out of the phone book and sent them to Washington. The largest majority in the history of this survey (54%) said that randomly selected members would probably do a better job. Let's hope the current crew in DC is paying attention to these results. 

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Only one-in-five voters think members of Congress listen to their constituents, and a majority say a random collection of people would do a better job.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of Likely U.S. Voters believe a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. That’s up five points from December 2022, and beats the previous all-time high of 52% in July 2014. Twenty-seven percent (27%) disagree and do not think a randomly selected group could do a better job. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This shouldn't come as all that much of a surprise. Congressional approval ratings have been in the tank for decades, currently sitting at a dismal 12%. It's hard to blame anyone for thinking that a randomly selected group of people might do a better job. If nothing else, it would take all of the money and influence peddling out of the process.

But just for the sake of argument, let's consider how that might work. First of all, people don't have phone books anymore. I don't even remember the last time we received one. But there's probably some database out there listing everyone's contact information that could be broken down by location. Perhaps a list like that could be compiled and a random number generator could be used to make a selection.

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But you wouldn't include everyone. We would need to restrict the entries to citizens (hopefully) and the picks for the Senate would need to be further restricted to individuals who are at least 30 years old and 25 for House members. Then you could hold the random drawing and begin asking people, "Hey, would you like to represent your district (or state)?" If they say no, move on to the next person. If they say yes, tell them to pack their bags.

But what if some of the randomly selected people have mental health issues? What if they have drug or alcohol addiction problems? What if they are incapable of performing basic tasks such as reading or simple math? (Let's be honest, we're graduating a lot of students like that these days.) It doesn't matter. None of those factors are constitutionally required. This is a sink-or-swim scenario we're talking about. If they don't work out, a new person will randomly replace them at the beginning of the next cycle anyway.

At the opposite end of the scale, what if one of the randomly selected people turns out to perform wonderfully and their constituents really love them? That doesn't matter either. They will need to serve one term and go home. It's the ultimate term-limit scenario. And that probably wouldn't be such a bad thing because "career politicians" are widely seen as being one of the worst parts of our problems.

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Of course, we couldn't actually do this without a series of constitutional amendments, and those would be unlikely to pass any time soon. But it's fun to think about. And given the way that the entire world seems to be going crazy these days, who knows? It might happen eventually. How much worse could it be?

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024
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