CIR Key Quality Elements

Key Quality Elements of the Citizens’ Initiative Review

The following Key Quality Elements must be implemented in order for the process to be known as an official Citizens’ Initiative Review, or CIR. CIR program and process materials have been developed over time in partnership with key deliberative democracy practitioners and top academic researchers to produce a review of the highest quality, integrity, and effectiveness that must be maintained each location it is implemented.

Panelist Selection Process

  1. Random Invitation
    1. A scientific random sampling (sortition), large enough to create a representative microcosm of the electorate through the citizens’ panel, is used in order to minimize selection bias and to increase the level of public trust for the CIR process.
    2. An approved* neutral database, such as the Voter Registration list, is used to select the random sample.
    3. The invitation to be a citizen panelist is designed to explain in straightforward language the purpose of the CIR, how panelists will be selected, and the non-partisan design of the process.**
    4. The return questionnaire, enclosed in the invitation, is designed to collect relevant demographic data and identify any panelists who may have conflicts of interest related to the issue under consideration, so they will be excluded from the panel.**
  2. Panelist Selection Process
    1. Citizen panelists are selected only from the pool of individuals who responded to the questionnaire (via on-line link or hard copy enclosure) that was included in the random sampling invitation.
    2. Panelist data are anonymized and coded to prevent introduction of bias (including names and all other demographic details).
    3. Panelist selection is made in a public venue and open to any interested members of the public for observation.
    4. Panelist selection process is monitored by a neutral party.*
    5. Panels are comprised of 20 to 24 individuals; with 2-3 alternates selected to attend the first day in case of a panelist no-show or illness.
    6. The panel is a demographic representation of the electorate base of the state (or county/city, as applicable) along several key characteristics, including age, geographic location (congressional district), political party affiliation, gender, and race/ethnicity. If possible, educational attainment and voting history (frequency) are also considered.
    7. Demographic targets are set using population data from credible sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, university population research/demographic centers, and official state election datasets.
  3. Panelist Compensation
    1. Citizen panelists receive a daily stipend for their participation in the review process, adequate enough to increase the likelihood of participation, ensuring a wide cross-section of representation on the panels. (This amount is to be set by the commission or the advisory board by consensus, with input from knowledgeable local experts, and based on available funding.)
    2. Travel expenses, overnight accommodations, meals and child/elder care reimbursement are provided for panelists when applicable.

The Review Process

  1. Process Requirements
    1. The review must proceed according to an agenda set out in the official CIR Moderator Manual developed by Healthy Democracy, which provides a template for each CIR activity.***
    2. Panelists must have access to testimony from advocates in favor of the measure and opposed to the measure.
    3. Expert witnesses, independent from either campaign, must be made available for panelists to question in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the issue and help them evaluate information.
    4. The culmination of the CIR process results in panelists producing a one-page Citizens’ Statement that is factual, reliable, and written in easy-to-understand language. The statement includes key findings (ranked in order of the strongest and most reliable facts about the measure in general), and the top arguments both for and against the measure, followed by a summary statement.
  2. Facilitation
    1. The CIR is professionally facilitated by specially trained moderators in the unique CIR process and who are committed to strict neutrality throughout the review process.
    2. Citizen participants are surveyed daily to ensure moderators and CIR activities are conducted according to established criteria of non-bias and meaningful panelist inclusion in deliberations.
  3. Staffing
    1. The CIR includes sufficient staff support to achieve important quality criteria. Critical functions to be performed include, but are not limited to:
      1. A certified process monitor to guide moderators and provide technical support
      2. A liaison with campaign advocates (to provide pre-event orientation and as an on-site resource during the review process)
      3. A liaison with independent experts
      4. A liaison to support and monitor public and media observation of the reviews

Dissemination of CIR Statement

  1. The CIR Citizen’s Statement is distributed to reach the largest number of voters possible based on available budget and access to communication outlets. The distribution plan is designed prior to the review and is implemented immediately upon publication of the Citizen’s Statement.
  2. A plan is in place to evaluate the success of the distribution methods used, and, resources permitting, to evaluate voter response on the usefulness of the Citizen’s Statement.

Evaluation and Oversight

  1. Transparent & Open Process
    The public is given access to the reports, evaluations, and general process of the CIR in order to maintain transparency and build public trust for the process.
  2. Independent Oversight
    The CIR program is overseen by an independent group – either a government commission or an advisory board made up of widely respected community leaders from across the political spectrum.
  3. Process Evaluation
    The CIR process is evaluated for fairness and efficacy, including daily surveys of panelists as indicated in the CIR Manual. When possible, the evaluation should be conducted by an independent academic research team to measure quality of deliberations and ensure absence of bias.

 

* Approved by an independent commission or nonpartisan oversight board that serves to objectively monitor the process.

** Templates provided by Healthy Democracy.

*** Adherence to the research-based manual is necessary to ensure delivery of a non-biased process that allows the citizen panelists to acquire adequate information about the policy question/s at hand, helps them work through the information both individually and in small and large groups in a way that develops an in-depth understanding of the issue, and supports results that are reliable and factual.