Citizens’ Initiative Review

Type of Activity: Project
Grantee: Healthy Democracy Action
Amount: $250,000 in 2015

What is a Citizens’ Initiative Review?

The State of Oregon established a Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission in 2011 to provide voters with quality, unbiased information about ballot measures to help them make good public decisions. Each election year, the Oregon Commission convenes groups of randomly selected and demographically representative voters to hear arguments for and against ballot measures. Designed to be fair and in-depth, the review process culminates with the production of a Citizens’ Statement detailing the key findings of the Citizens’ Initiative Review panel. The Citizens’ Statement is included in the statewide Voters’ Pamphlet mailed to every voter prior to an election.

A team of nationally recognized researchers funded by the National Science Foundation has concluded that the CIR Citizens’ Statements are widely used and helpful to a large percentage of voters.

Why do we think the Citizens’ Initiative Review is important?

While lawmakers have access to public hearings about proposed legislation, the initiative process asks citizens to vote with very little objective information on important, often complex topics. Most voter information comes from political campaigns and campaign ads. As a result, most voters tell pollsters that they often find ballot measures too complicated and confusing to understand, and most say that they have cast ballots on measures with which they are unfamiliar. While voters say they like the ballot initiative process, they want it to work better.

The Citizens’ Initiative Review is a bipartisan idea that responds directly to the needs of the public and reduces the ability of campaigns to deceive or manipulate the public with misinformation. External evaluations of the informative value of Citizens’ Initiative Reviews show consistently positive results. In Oregon:

  • 65% of voters who read the statements said they helped them decide how to vote.
  • CIR statements were found to help voters become more informed.
  • CIR deliberations were found to be fair and respectful, producing statements free of gross factual errors or faulty logic.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting the Citizens’ Initiative Review?

In 2015, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of $250,000 to Healthy Democracy Action to support advocacy for the adoption of legislation that would enable the creation of Citizens’ Initiative Reviews in states outside of Oregon.