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Introducing Democracy Theorist

Terry Bouricius

Citizens’ Assembly Expert
Terry Bouricius is an expert on citizens' assemblies, a new democratic approach where everyday people are chosen by lottery to discuss and address vital public issues. This method bypasses today's polarized and short-term political climate, paving the way for meaningful progress.

Watch this 2 minute video for a quick understanding of citizens’ assemblies. Or read more about this approach in The New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Guardian.

He’s a “Recovering Politician,” having served 20 years as a Vermont elected official

In 1981, Terry made a long-shot run for City Council in Burlington, VT. That same year, his friend and fellow underdog, Bernie Sanders, sought the mayoral seat. To the astonishment of many, both clinched victories, launching their political careers. Throughout his two decades in elected office, Terry remained one of Sanders’ closest allies.

Terry is now a globally-recognized theorist on citizens’ assemblies

Later, while Sanders sought to invigorate electoral politics on a national scale, Terry went in a different direction. He wondered if elections themselves could be the obstacle to a stronger democracy.

For the past two decades, Terry has advocated for citizens’ assemblies as a superior approach to democratic governance. His writings include a paper pivotal to the establishment of the world’s first modern standing citizens’ assembly in East Belgium. Drawing from his rich political experience, his latest book, "The Trouble With Elections," offers an insider's perspective on the inherent flaws of the electoral process.

He’s one of the most engaging communicators available on this topic

Terry has the ability to articulate complex topics like citizens’ assemblies, democratic lotteries, and deliberation in an engaging way that resonates across the political spectrum. He stands out as one of the foremost communicators on this subject.

Explore more of Terry’s recent conversations:

Refounding Full Interview (2022)

WVMT The Morning Drive (2023)

Question Ideas

Terry is open to discussing any topic, but here are some question ideas to aid in preparation:

  • What inspired you to explore and advocate for citizens' assemblies as an alternative democratic approach?

  • You served for 20 years as an elected official in Vermont. How did this experience shape your views on the limitations and possibilities of traditional electoral politics?

  • Can you share some highlights or pivotal moments from your political journey alongside Bernie Sanders?

  • In your book, "The Trouble With Elections," what are the primary flaws of the electoral process you've identified? And how do citizens’ assemblies address those issues?

  • East Belgium established the world’s first modern standing citizens’ assembly, and your paper played a crucial role in it. Can you share some of the impacts or outcomes from that initiative?

  • How do you respond to critics who argue that citizens' assemblies might lack the expertise or continuity needed to make informed decisions on complex policy issues?

  • How do you think citizens’ assemblies can contribute to bridging the current polarized political climate, especially in countries like the U.S.?