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DEMOCRACY LAB Citizens’ Juries – providing a neutral recommendation on voting issues

In Switzerland, issues up for vote are typically complex and the interests of different parties are often difficult to decipher. One solution could be the use of a citizens’ jury whereby a few citizens are selected at random to provide a balanced assessment of voting issues for the many.

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The random selection of citizens is critical to ensure the independence of the jury. That is the key condition for the jury to undertake its task: to “filter” or sort through information from campaigns and political parties in order to provide citizens with neutral and correct information.

At its core, a citizens’ jury should help people make decisions at the ballot box that are balanced and free from any individual or party interests. And, importantly this should be provided in a language that is clear and understandable.

A widely used model in the US

Citizens' juries, sometimes called panels or committees, are not a Swiss invention. They are widely used in many states in the US, providing a valuable model to support and strengthen democracy.

In 2019, the citizens’ jury will make its debut in Switzerland. Political scientist and democracy researcher Charly Pache from the University of Geneva is preparing for the first field tests in communes in canton Geneva.

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