Citizen Juries institutionalized in Oregon

From America Speaks July newsletter:

Last month, our movement saw a new victory with the institutionalization of Citizen Juries in Oregon.

On June 16, Governor Kitzhaber—with strong bipartisan support from the state House and  Senate—signed in legislation continuing the Citizens’ Initiative Review (HB 2634).  This law establishes the legal framework to provide Oregon voters with reliable, high-quality, citizen-driven information about ballot measures. When future ballot issues arise, a random sample of Oregonians—peers of the voters—will engage in pro/con deliberation and will summarize their findings in a one-page citizen statement. On the day of the election, all voters see a printed version of the citizen statement in the voter pamphlet.

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3 Responses

  1. Random sample of what — a pool of volunteers or the electoral roll? If the latter, then what measures are taken to ensure that as many as possible of those selected take up the offer? How long is the period of deliberation and how are pro/con advocates and information provided? Who moderates the debate, and who gets to write the summary statement? Does the statement simply summarise the debate or are participants’ preferences indicated by recording votes? Given that the statement is only one page long then there would be no space for the arguments, only a statistical formulation as to how convincing the participants found them to be — ideally by way of a final pro/con jury vote. In which case you might as well scrap the macro ballot as this would be akin to a trial jury having an advisory rather than a decisive role. But it’s a step in the right direction.

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  2. Keith,

    Here is a summary of the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Process from http://www.healthydemocracyoregon.org

    Citizens’ Initiative Review Panels consist of
    18 -24 randomly-selected registered voters
    that are demographically-balanced to
    reflect the state’s electorate. Demographics
    must at a minimum include: A) the location
    of the elector’s residence, (B) the elector’s
    party affiliation, if any, (C) the elector’s
    voting history, and (D) the elector’s age. In
    addition, demographic variables including,
    gender, ethnicity, educational attainment,
    and income will be incorporated to the
    extent practicable and legally permissible.
    Panelists are given a per diem of $150 a day
    and travel, lodging, and meal expenses are
    covered by the convening organization to
    ensure widespread participation.
    For each ballot measure evaluated, a
    separate panel will be convened.
    The Review process is five consecutive days
    in length and is moderated by two highly
    trained professionals.
    The resulting “Citizens Statement” will be
    printed in the Voters’ Pamphlet, and may
    include summary positions for and against
    the measure, a summary of key findings
    about the measure, and a summary of
    additional fiscal and policy considerations
    — all at 250 words or less each.

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  3. OK but the devil is in the detail — from an initial random sample of 10,000 invitees, “several hundred” volunteer to make up the pool for a second (stratified) sortition. The organisers claim that no self-selection is involved, yet what other principle can account for this dramatic narrowing of the field? Did 9,000+ invitations get randomly lost in the post? Given that they end up with panels of 24, this is in not an accurate descriptive sample in any respect other than the criteria that the organisers deem to be salient (age, gender, ethnicity, education, partisan affiliation and location of residence). Most proponents of deliberation prefer to use small groups of volunteers as this enhances the quality of the debate, but it’s profoundly undemocratic as it unduly privileges 24 self-selected individuals. Given that the purpose of this exercise is to provide balanced information for the electorate and great emphasis is placed on impartial moderation then why bother with the deliberation stage? Why not just get the different advocates to summarise their positions under the watchful gaze of the moderators, with a strict word limit for each party? And why go to the expense of sending out 10,000 invitations — why not just invite all citizens to apply as the effect would be exactly the same?

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