Levine on the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review

Professor Dr. Peter Levine of Tufts University has posted the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, at the Democracy Fund Blog.

Here are excerpts:

[…] The Citizens Initiative Review process combines the best of [direct democracy and deliberation]. The text of an initiative is given to a randomly selected, representative body of 24 citizens who study it, hear testimony on both sides of the issue, and collaboratively write an explanatory statement. They spend five days on this work. Their explanation does not endorse or reject the initiative but gives deliberated and informed arguments for and against it. A copy is mailed to all households in Oregon as part of the state’s Voters Pamphlet. […]

Penn State Professor John Gastil found that nearly half of Oregon voters were aware of the CIR’s explanations in fall 2012. He also conducted a randomized experiment, surveying a sample of Oregonians who were given the explanations and a control group who were not. His experiment showed that the text produced by the CIR influenced people’s views of the ballot measure and increased their understanding of it. If many people knew about the explanation, and the explanation changed people’s opinions in an experiment, then the CIR probably changed many people’s opinions across the state.

CIRCLE conducted an analysis of media coverage of the CIR process in December of 2012. With the bulk of coverage appearing in Oregon-based media outlets, it generally focused on the CIR process—describing it and communicating its validity and trustworthiness. Healthy Democracy, the organization that managed the CIR, created strong and consistent messages that guided this public conversation, which at times expanded into advocacy for the CIR or appeals to strengthen democracy through such processes. The media also used the CIR as a way to talk about deliberative dialogue in a concrete form. For the non-Oregon media especially, it offered a way to think about the possibilities for such processes in other locales. Advocating deliberative processes and igniting the public imagination about new forms of engagement were clearly strong narrative threads in the public discourse caused by CIR media coverage.

CIRCLE is also in the final stages of interviewing political leaders from other states who have observed the CIR in Oregon or are engaged in other educational activities about the CIR. We are asking them what would influence their decision to adopt the reform.[…]

For more details, please see the complete post.

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