“Choosing the Framers: Lotteries in Constituent Assemblies” (joint with Brenda van Coppenolle - Essex)
A constitution is the foundation of any democracy, and its text shapes the path of democratic development. But who chooses the framers of such a document? And how does this choice affect the composition and ultimate development of a constitution? To resolve this issue of political selection, both Denmark and France adopted a lottery-based procedure to choose the members of their respective Constitution Committees, in creation of the Danish “June Constitution” in 1848 and during the French Revolution in 1789. Using a micro-level dataset of deputy biographies, parliamentary selection procedures, roll call voting, and constituent assembly archives in Denmark and France, we analyze how this procedure affected the constitution drafting process. In both cases, we show that the lottery-based procedure selected educated and experienced committee members, at the expense of noble and king- appointed deputies. We also show that this selection rule prevented the cooptation of the document by the radical factions. Thus lottery-based selection played a sanitizing role during an period of democratization without developed parties, not only in the canonical case of France but in the drafting of the constitution that governs Denmark to this day.