In the heyday of their republic, the Venetians selected their lifetime leader, the Doge, by a complex system involving lot-drawing. The system had developed through the Middle Ages, becoming ever more complex to avoid manipulation, before being codified in 1268. The procedure consisted of a series of ten ballots that alternated between sortition and election. All participants had to belong to the Great Council, which included several hundred members of the most prominent families. The process might be called fetura, for the Latin for breeding, the same method used in genetic or evolutionary algorithms. The steps were as follows (Dahl 1994, 14-16):
1. The ballottino, a boy chosen at random, draws thirty names by plucking balls out of an urn, thus setting the process in motion with a blind draw.
2. Those thirty are reduced to nine by a blind draw.
3. Those nine put forward forty names, each of which needs at least seven of the nine possible votes.
4. Those forty are reduced to twelve by a blind draw.
5. Those twelve put forward twenty-five names.
6. Those twenty-five are reduced to nine by a blind draw.
7. Those nine choose forty-five new names, each of which needs at least seven of the nine possible votes.
8. Those forty-five are reduced to eleven by a blind draw.
9. Those eleven choose forty-one, who must not have been included in any of the reduced groups that named candidates in earlier steps.
10. Those forty-one then choose the Doge.
system seems devised to make it impossible for any individual,
family, or coterie to plant candidates or exercise undue
influence. However convoluted the procedure, it supported a
republican government that lasted 529 years, until 1797, when
Venice was conquered by Napoleon.