California Citizens’ Initiative Review Demonstration

For the first time in California state history, the Citizens’ Initiative Review Demonstration brought together eligible California voters for a deliberative process to demonstrate how citizen participation can make the California initiative system more transparent, more understandable, and more independent of campaign spending.

Demonstration Review of Proposition 61, Drug Price Standards (2016)

March 5-7, 2017

Villa Graziadio Executive Dining Center, Pepperdine University

The Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) Demonstration Project brings Californians together to provide clear, useful, trustworthy evaluations of ballot measures. A panel of 18 voters from California universities heard directly from a ballot measure’s supporters and opponents as well as independent experts. During the process, panelists deliberated on what they had learned in order to fairly evaluate the measure. At the conclusion of the Review, the panel presented its findings in a Citizens’ Statement (see above).

The Citizens’ Initiative Review has been implemented around the country in states such as Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Arizona. But since California makes more use of the initiative system than any other state, the Citizens’ Initiative Review is a natural fit for election reform here. The Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, and Healthy Democracy have partnered to bring the Citizens’ Initiative Review® to California to demonstrate its potential in California and tell the powerful story of the CIR to California voters.

Project Partners

The Demonstration

On March 5 – 7, 2017 the Davenport Institute and Healthy Democracy convened a demonstration of the Citizens’ Initiative Review at Pepperdine University in Malibu. For the purposes of this demonstration project, the citizen panel was comprised of a group of students from undergrad and graduate schools from across California, balanced to be diverse in terms of political perspectives, gender, and ethnicity. They deliberated on one of the more complex measures from the November 2016 statewide ballot, Proposition 61: Drug Price Standards.

Over the course of three days, the panel examined ballot materials, considered the arguments of advocates for and against Prop 61, heard from issue experts, and deliberated in small groups. At the conclusion of the in-depth review, the panel drafted a Citizens’ Statement outlining the most important key facts about the ballot measure and identifying the strongest arguments for and against the measure.

In states that have implemented the full CIR process, this statement is included with ballot information to provide an overview that does not take a position on the measure, but that offers a multi-partisan perspective on the meaning of an initiative as well as a consensus about which arguments for and against the measure are most valid and compelling.

How is this different from a regular Citizens’ Initiative Review?

The Measure. A full CIR is conducted on an upcoming ballot measure, and the Citizens’ Statement is released prior to voting so voters can use the information when deciding how to vote. Because this is an abbreviated demonstration project being conducted in a non-election year, the panel reviewed a measure from the 2016 California ballot: Proposition 61.

The Panel. A full CIR panel is composed of randomly selected voters select to represent the political and demographic diversity of the state. Due to the constraints of a demonstration, this panel was composed of students recruited from universities around California. The panel was diverse and reflective of California’s population in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, political affiliation, and geography.

The Duration. This demonstration compressed certain features of a full CIR to fit into a 3 day timeline.

The Statement. Because the demonstration timeline is compressed into three days, the statement is also abbreviated. There are Key Findings, a Statement in Support of the Measure, and a Statement In Opposition to the Measure, just like in a full CIR. There are placeholders where additional language in the ‘Statement in Support’ and the ‘Statement Opposed’ would appear in a full CIR statement. That language would integrate the pertinent underlying values and provide a persuasive narrative on each side of the issue. The Demonstration Citizens’ Statement still meets the rigorous quality standards of a full CIR, including extensive editing of the raw information by panelists, generation of new content in response to expert testimony, vetting for strength and reliability, and easy readability.


Every Citizens Initiative Review has been evaluated by independent university researchers. We’re glad to continue our record of rigorous evaluation with the California CIR Demonstration Project. Chris Celaya, PhD candidate in the Harvard University Department of Government, led the in-room evaluations of panelists. Outside the deliberations, Public Agenda has joined the project to conduct research on social media impacts and long-term participant experiences.

Chris Celaya
PhD Candidate, Harvard University, Government Department

Nikola Pavelić
Learning & Impact Evaluation Fellow, Public Engagement Unit, Public Agenda

Matt Leighninger
Vice President for Public Engagement, Public Agenda

The Team

Pete Peterson
Dean of Pepperdine School of Public Policy

Molly Keating
Mediator and Facilitator, #CaliCIR Lead Moderator

Natoma Keir
#CaliCIR Assistant Moderator

Sarah Axen
Administrative Assistant at Pepperdine School of Public Policy,
#CaliCIR Logistics Manager

Jessie Conover
Program Director at Healthy Democracy,
#CaliCIR Process Quality Monitor

Robin Teater
Executive Director at Healthy Democracy

Ashley Trim
Executive Director of the Davenport Institute,
#CaliCIR Project Manager

Frances Portillo
Principal at Portillo Consulting International,
#CaliCIR Lead Moderator

Janine Hamner
#CaliCIR Assistant Moderator

Brian Stewart
Graduate Assistant at Pepperdine School of Public Policy

Linn Davis
Operations and Technology Manager at Healthy Democracy,
#CaliCIR Information Coordinator

Media/Information Contact

Ashley Trim, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement, 310-506-6878


This project is made possible in part by a generous donation from the Noble and Lorraine Hancock Family Fund, located at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.