Frequently Asked Questions
In Oregon, voters have the constitutional right to lawmaking directly through the initiative process. We believe that responsibly exercising this right requires that as voters we all have reliable and clear information about ballot measures.
However, as every Oregonian knows, ballot measures are often complex issues, which have significant financial and social implications for our state. Given that the stakes are so high, campaigns and interest groups frequently spend millions on campaign advertising to gain an advantage on Election Day. Their goal is to win. It’s common sense. However, it is also common sense that campaign advertising is primarily meant to influence, not necessarily to inform.
With the Citizens’ Initiative Review, Oregonians now have a powerful new tool in the official Statewide Voters’ Pamphlet to easily find reliable and clear information, and sort through even the toughest questions about ballot measures.
For each Review, a panel of 24 Oregon voters is brought together. The panelists are selected at random to form a demographically balanced panel, fairly reflecting a cross-section of the entire state electorate. Each panelist is given a modest stipend for their participation and their travel expenses so there is no barrier to participation.
A two-step selection process is used to form the panel. First, a large random sample of 10,000 voters is selected from the statewide voter registration list. These voters are then sent a letter through the postal mail inviting them to apply to participate.
Next, from those who agree to serve, a large pool of several hundred potential panelists is put together. Over 800 Oregonians volunteered to serve in 2012. Each person in the pool is assigned a number (to protect their privacy) and then in a public meeting, a panel of 24 voters is assembled to match the demographics of state electorate. The demographics matched include, but are not limited to: age, gender, ethnicity, education, partisan affiliation and location of their residence.
During a five-day public hearing, panelists hear from advocates for and against the measure under review, and call upon additional policy experts for information about the measure under review.
Healthy Democracy, working with both initiative advocate teams and doing independent background research, identifies a range of additional background witnesses or policy experts. The panelists may choose to hear testimony from these witnesses either in person or in some cases via video or phone conference.
Over the course of Review, panelists have the opportunity to directly ask questions of the advocates, prioritize what they want to learn about, and deliberate together. On a daily basis the panel identifies the key facts and key arguments about the measure, and as a group sorts through the information they’ve gathered to highlight the most important points to share with voters statewide.
At the conclusion of the CIR process, the panelists draft a ‘Citizens’ Statement,’ detailing the most important findings about the measure, as well as reporting how many panelists support or oppose the measure. The ‘Citizens’ Statement’ is then published as a prominent new page in the voters’ pamphlet, and distributed to every voting household across the state.
Great care has gone into designing the Citizens’ Initiative Review. Here are a few of the most important aspects of the Review that make it trustworthy:
- The twenty-four voters that evaluate the measure are randomly chosen, rather than self-selected or selected by anyone who has a stake in the outcome of the review. Therefore, the panelists are not selected to ‘push an agenda.’
- The panel is demographically balanced to fairly reflect the state electorate.
- Advocates for and against the measure are given equal time and opportunity to make their case.
- The panel, not the measure advocates or CIR staff, determines which additional policy experts to call on to provide additional information during the review.
- The review is facilitated by professional mediators who are trained to be neutral and have no personal stake in the outcome.
- During every stage of the Review, the process had been designed to eliminate the introduction of bias by moderators or staff.
- Each day, and at the conclusion of the review, panelists evaluate the CIR process in terms of fairness and bias. The results of these evaluations are publicly reviewed each day in the process and included in the public report. The results of these evaluations from CIRs in 2008 and 2010 showed very high marks for fairness and lack of bias from all of the panelists and both of the initiative advocates.
- Finally, the ‘Citizens’ Statements’ are written by the panelists themselves as an information resource for voters.
With the ‘Citizens’ Statement,’ voters will receive clear, useful, and trustworthy information about ballot measures. The Citizens’ Statement does not tell people how to vote. Rather, it provides voters with well-reasoned information they may consider in their personal deliberations when it comes time to cast their vote. For examples of the Citizens’ Statements from 2010, please see here and here.
The Citizens’ Initiative Review costs approximately $100,000 per review. The major expenses for running the CIR are accommodations and food for the panel and staff, the daily stipend and travel costs for the panel, fees for professional moderation, and staffing the CIR.
It is important to put the cost of the Review into context. Over $100 million had been spent to sway voters during ballot measure elections in just the last ten years. During this same time period, as voters we’ve made decisions impacting over $50 billion in new spending and tax cuts. Taking into account the substantial spending by campaigners, and the impact of these measures on taxpayers, we view the Citizens’ Initiative Review as a worthy investment in our democratic process.
No. The Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which oversees and pays for the Citizens’ Initiative Review, is funded entirely by charitable foundations and by donations from individuals. Please see the CIR Commission’s website for additional information.
Not yet. However, Healthy Democracy’s success in developing the Citizens’ Initiative Review has created interest from leaders in other initiative states. And while none of those states have implemented the CIR, they are carefully watching our work. Once again, Oregon is leading the way with a unique and innovative reform.
The purpose of the 2010 pilot of the Citizens’ Initiative Review was to provide Oregonians with an opportunity to use this new information, and determine through a rigorous evaluation how much voters value the Citizens’ Initiative Review as a new public service. To do this properly, a law was passed to place the results of the CIR, the ‘Citizens’ Statement,’ into a prominent new page in the statewide voters pamphlet. That’s the only way a rigorous evaluation of the CIR process could be done.
Recognizing the importance of this research opportunity, the National Science Foundation awarded $218,000 to a team of distinguished researchers from Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin to conduct the evaluation. Their purpose was to determine the quality of deliberation that took place during the review process itself, as well as the utility of the resultant Citizens’ Statements published in the statewide Voters’ Pamphlet. By both of these metrics, the 2010 pilot of the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) received high marks.
The research team’s evaluation included direct observation of the CIR panels; interviews with the panelists themselves; examination of full transcripts of the CIR panels; assessment of the Citizens’ Statements, and analysis of large statewide surveys.
Click here for more on the evaluation findings.
In June, 2011, the Oregon Legislature approved a legislation making of the Citizens’ Initiative Review a permanent part of Oregon elections. Oregon is now the first state in the nation to adopt this innovative policy into law. The law will be fully implemented during the 2012 election cycle.