The 2018 Portland metro area Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) panel has released its final Citizens’ Statement on Measure 26-199, the Portland Metro Region Affordable Housing Bond. This was the first time that a randomly selected and demographically representative citizen panel has reviewed a local ballot measure in the Portland area. Over the past four days, from August 23 to 26, twenty everyday voters from across the region studied the measure in-depth, hearing testimony from the pro and con campaigns, questioning independent experts, and deliberating on the issues at hand.
The Statement represents the citizen panel’s work to determine the most important information for voters to know, as well as the best reasons to vote both for and against the measure. Neither the panel nor the Citizens’ Statement take any position on the measure itself; rather, CIR panels seek to provide the strongest and most reliable information for all metro area voters.
To select the panel, Healthy Democracy sent 5,000 letters to randomly selected registered voters living in the Portland Metro district, then convened an independent committee to select the final panel from among a coded list of responses. This selection process was also randomized, except where anonymous balancing was necessary to ensure the citizen panel reflected a microcosm of the Metro district’s electorate. The 2018 Portland-area CIR panel was demographically balanced on seven factors: location of residence, political party registration, age, gender, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and renter/homeowner status.
Experts brought before the citizen panel were selected to represent a broad range of related knowledge and viewpoints. Experts also were vetted for independence: experts presenting at CIRs must have taken no public position on the measure at the time of the review, must not work for an entity that had taken a public position, must not have done any work (paid or unpaid) for either campaign, and must otherwise have no meaningful connection to either campaign.
The review was co-hosted by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, and a simultaneous online group of citizen participants was convened by Oregon’s Kitchen Table, a program of the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University.
Healthy Democracy designed the Citizens’ Initiative Review process and has facilitated CIRs in Oregon since 2008. In 2011, the Oregon Legislature established the CIR as an official part of the state’s election process (for statewide ballot measures only). Although no statewide Oregon CIR will take place in 2018 due to lack of funding, Healthy Democracy has continued to expand the CIR through pilot projects – on local ballot measures like this one, on statewide measures this year in Massachusetts and California, and as part of high school curricula.
Independent, third-party evaluation is a hallmark of the Citizens’ Initiative Review, and the CIR has been the subject of extensive academic research since its inception. Studies of past Citizens’ Statements have shown them to provide voters with highly accurate information, and these Statements – since they are written by everyday folks – have proven more relevant and readable to the general public than many other sources of voter info. An international team of researchers is currently analyzing data from 2018’s CIRs, as well as similar processes in Europe; their final evaluations can be expected in early 2019.
For more details on the Citizens’ Initiative Review, the Citizens’ Statement on Measure 26-199, or Healthy Democracy, please contact Program Manager Linn Davis (cell: 503-334-9455) or Executive Director Robin Teater (cell: 503-381-1196).