Basically sortition is a method of peopling an assembly, jury, mini-public or whatever, by collecting a random selection of the target population. We are familiar with the way that selection for jury service works, the difference being that for a citizens’ assembly folk cannot be compelled to take part as they can for jury service unless they have a good excuse or like me are well over 75 and so probably considered too gaga to take part.
The aim of sortition is to end up with a body of participants as representative as possible of the population at large. Whilst this is a simple concept, it is not so easy in practice, and needs to be scrutinised to make sure there are not glaring gaps. Also, as assemblies have to be of a manageable size, commonly of the order of a few tens to a few hundreds of participants, the size of the assembly affects its ability to be representative.
In New Zealand, one data base that can be used for random selection is the electoral roll. This has the disadvantage of excluding anyone under 18, and of usually being incomplete and also some degree out of date. Recruitment to an assembly needs careful planning and a lot of effort on the ground. Some further thoughts on how an assembly for the Auckland area could be selected can be found in the post on talking to the Auckland Peoples’ Panel people.