Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review (Oregon CIR)


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The Oregon Citizen Initiative Review (Oregon CIR) is a Citizens' Initiative Review designed to allow citizens of the U.S. state of Oregon to evaluate statewide ballot initiatives. A Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is a Citizens’ Jury that deliberates about a ballot initiative. The Oregon CIR is intended to give voters clear, useful, and trustworthy evaluations of initiatives on the ballot. During election time, voters receive an abundance of information through the media, but most of it is meant to influence, not inform. Campaigns to pass initiatives are filled with "spin" and "political noise." Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO), a non-profit organization, was designed to help create and promote the Oregon CIR. The purpose of the Oregon CIR is to allow a random sample of Oregon citizens to learn important facts about an initiative, hear the pros and cons of each initiative, deliberate on the initiative, and then relay that information to the voters of Oregon via a one-page Citizens' Statement summarizing their findings and positions. This Citizens' Statement, which is added to the voter’s pamphlet -- a booklet, published by the government, that gives citizens information about candidates and ballot measures to be voted on in an election -- is designed to give voters facts and perspectives that they may not have gotten on their own. Supporters of the Oregon CIR hope that the Oregon CIR will help restore trust in the Initiative Process.

In 2011, the Oregon Legislature voted to permanently implement the Oregon CIR, and the next iteration of the process is planned for the November 2012 elections. As of the summer of 2012, Oregon is the only state that employs the Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR) process, but individuals or officials in the U.S. states of Washington, California, Idaho, and Colorado have expressed interest in the results of the Oregon CIR. If the Oregon CIR proves to be successful, these states are likely to try implementing their own CIR processes.


According to Tyrone Reitman, Ned Crosby -- founder of the Jefferson Center, which developed the Citizens’ Jury -- and his wife Patricia Benn advocated for the use of the CIR in Oregon in 2003.

In 2006, Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford organized a project to introduce the CIR in Oregon. Crosby and Benn agreed to fund the project.  In early 2007 Reitman and Shuford founded Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO), an organization that would carry out the project, which was called the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review (Oregon CIR). Crosby and Benn became members of HDO's board of directors. The Oregon CIR was initially modeled after the Citizens' Jury. 

After a successful trial in 2008, the following year the Oregon Legislature passed HB 2895, which authorized the Oregon CIR for the 2010 election. In 2010 two Oregon CIRs -- on Measure 73 and Measure 74 -- were held and produced two Citizens’ Statements, which were included in the official 2010 Oregon voters’ pamphlet.  In 2011 the Oregon Legislature passed a law, HB 2634, making the Oregon CIR a permanent part of Oregon’s statewide initiative process and establishing the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission to administer the Oregon CIR.

In 2011 HDO created a new, related organization, Healthy Democracy Fund (HDF). HDF’s activities include raising funds to sustain the Oregon CIR.

The next Oregon CIRs are planned for the November 2012 initiative elections.


The Oregon CIR costs approximately $125,000 per initiative for staff, location, videographers, recruitment, and participant compensation. The Oregon CIR would reduce cost if more than one initiative were reviewed simultaneously. House Bill 2634 requires that the Oregon CIR be privately funded.  

Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO) raised funds for the Oregon CIR pilot project. That funding included a $50,000 matching grant from Crosby and Benn -- which was successfully matched by $50,000 in contributions from generous Oregon supporters -- and a $30,000 contribution from the Carol and Velma Saling Foundation.

Beginning in 2011 Healthy Democracy Fund (HDF) joined HDO in raising funds for the Oregon CIR. 

Participant Selection

The Oregon CIR involves four categories of participants: panelists, the citizens who deliberate about a ballot initiative; advocates, individuals who are knowledgeable about the ballot initiative and who argue in support of or in opposition to the ballot initiative; stakeholders, individuals who will be affected by the ballot initiative, who also argue in support of or in opposition to the ballot initiative; and background witnesses, individuals who are knowledgeable about issues related to the initiative, and who present neutral background information about those issues to the panelists.  

To select the panelists for the 2010 Oregon CIRs, HDO used the following selection process: HDO took a probability sample of 10,000 Oregon voters. All voters in this sample were sent an invitation to participate in the 2010 Oregon CIR and a demographic survey. Three hundred fifty members of the sample responded, for a response rate of 3.5%. From those who responded, HDO, using the demographic data from the sample survey, anonymously chose 24 panelists, and 5 alternate panelists, for each 2010 Oregon CIR. The panelists and alternates for each CIR were chosen using stratification, so that each panel closely matched the Oregon population in terms of place of residence, political partisanship, education, ethnicity/race, gender, and age. HDO paid panelists' travel, accommodation, and child care costs, and a stipend of $150 per day.

In the 2010 Oregon CIRs the advocates included the proponents of the initiatives and lobbyists or public officials who opposed the initiatives. Stakeholders were selected by the advocates. 

To select background witnesses for the 2010 Oregon CIRs HDO identified individuals recognized as experts on issues related to the initiatives and obtained names of additional potential witnesses from the advocates. This yielded a list of seventy potential background witnesses whom HDO interviewed to learn more about the individuals’ expertise, availability to present to the panel, and support for or opposition to the initiatives. With the goal of creating a list of background witnesses having diversity of expertise and experiences and being roughly balanced in terms of support for or opposition to each initiative, HDO then chose a final list of potential background witnesses for each initiative. From these lists, the 2010 Oregon CIR panelists chose the background witnesses who actually testified before the panels. 

Deliberation Process

The Oregon CIR is a five-day professionally mediated process. On the first day, the panelists become acquainted with the process, practice deliberating according to the CIR procedures while using a hypothetical initiative, and are given an opportunity to develop questions about the measure. 

The next three days are devoted to hearings at which advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses present arguments and information to the panel.  During the hearings panelists are given the opportunity to ask question of the advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses. On each day after the hearings panelists deliberate in small groups, followed by a discussion among all the panelists during which panelists share results of their small-group discussions. Each day each panelist is assigned to a different small group and to a different seat during the full-panel discussion, in order to expose each panelist to a diversity of views and to prevent contiguity between panelists from influencing panelists’ decisions. 

On the second day, the panelists hear statements from the advocates and stakeholders, and both sides are given a chance to rebut the claims made by their opponents. Panelists meet in small and large groups to process the advocates' and stakeholders' statements, identifying important claims as well as issues about which the panelists' need more information. At the end of the second day, panelists choose which background witnesses to call on the third day.

On the third day the panelists hear from the background witnesses and again meet in small and large groups to identify claims and questions and decide which witnesses to hear the following day. On the fourth day, the panelists hear background witness testimony and the closing arguments from the advocates. At the end of the day, the panelists begin to develop a set of "Key Findings" to be included in the Citizens' Statement. A vote of 14 of 24 panelists is needed for a key finding to be included in the Citizens’ Statement. 

On the last day the panelists finalize their Key Findings and then divide into two groups: those favoring and those opposing the initiative. Each group of panelists develops arguments justifying its position on the measure. After deciding on the arguments supporting or opposing the initiative, each group reads its arguments to the other and makes final revisions to the arguments based on the other group's feedback. The final arguments are included in the Citizens’ Statement.

After finishing their deliberations on the fifth day panelists complete an evaluation of the Oregon CIR process and of the Oregon CIR organizers and moderators. In their evaluations panelists apply several criteria, including the quality of the deliberations and any bias in the process or exhibited by CIR personnel. In addition each panelist has the opportunity in the evaluation to write a personal statement expressing views that were not included in the Citizens’ Statement.  In the late afternoon of the fifth day the Oregon CIR organizers hold a press conference at which the panelists present their Citizens’ Statement to the public and the media. The Citizens’ Statement is included in the official Oregon voters’ pamphlet. Some time after the Oregon CIR has concluded the Oregon CIR organizers publish a final report that includes the Citizens’ Statement, the panelists’ evaluations of the CIR, and descriptions of the CIR process. 

Examples of Oregon Citizen Initiative Review

In order to tangibly test the CIR, in 2008 Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO) conducted a field test of the Oregon CIR on Measure 58. This measure, written by Bill Sizemore, would have required elementary schools to teach English-second-language students in English after only one year of transitional language schooling, whereas high school students would receive a two-year transitional period. The field test Oregon CIR ran with 23 panelists from across the state of Oregon. The panelists spent five days in hearings and deliberation, listening to advocates for and against the measure, background witnesses, and other nonpartisan witnesses. The field test Oregon CIR was hosted and funded by Healthy Democracy Oregon.

At the end of the field test Oregon CIR the panelists produced a one-page Citizens' Statement of the pros and cons of Measure 58. Nine panelists supported the measure, deciding it was the best move for the future of Oregon schools and the children who attend them. Fourteen panelists were opposed, concluding it was a costly fix that would not be effective because the timeline for teaching English was unrealistic and the workload it would impose was too arduous. Measure 58 was later rejected by a 56% majority of Oregon voters during the 2008 election.

In 2009 the Oregon Legislature approved a trial of the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review to be held the following year. In 2010 HDO organized two Oregon CIRs, in each of which a randomly selected sample of 24 Oregon citizens learned and deliberated for five days about an initiative that was to appear on the November 2010 Oregon statewide ballot.

The first Oregon CIR held August 9-13, 2010 concerned Measure 73, a proposed statute that would impose mandatory minimum criminal sentences for certain repeat offenses concerning driving while intoxicated and for certain sexual offenses. In the final Citizens’ Statement 21 panelists opposed Measure 73 and three panelists supported the measure. On November 2, 2010 Oregon voters enacted Measure 73, with 57% of voters casting ballots in favor of the measure. Click here for a detailed case study of the 2010 Oregon CIR on Measure 73.

The second Oregon CIR held August 16-20, 2010 concerned Measure 74, a proposed statute that would have created a regulated distribution system for medical marijuana in Oregon. In the final Citizens’ Statement 13 panelists supported Measure 74 and 11 panelists opposed the measure. On November 2, 2010, Oregon voters rejected Measure 74, with 56% of voters casting ballots against  the measure. Click here for a detailed case study of the 2010 Oregon CIR on Measure 74.

During each Oregon CIR the participants, called “panelists,” produced a Citizens’ Statement evaluating the initiative that they had deliberated about. Those Citizens’ Statements were printed in the official 2010 Oregon voters’ pamphlet. John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch conducted a study of the 2010 Oregon CIRs. The report of the results of the study found that the Oregon CIR panelists had engaged in deliberations of good quality and had produced Citizens’ Statements containing new and useful information for voters. 


In 2010 evaluation of the Oregon CIRs focused on two dependent variables: the deliberative quality of the Oregon CIRs, and the influence of the Citizens' Statements on Oregon voters' knowledge of and attitudes towards the initiatives assessed by the Oregon CIR panels. The Oregon CIR panelists assessed the Oregon CIR process and personnel in the panelists' final evaluations. In addition, the 2010 Oregon CIRs were evaluated by means of a research study conducted by John Gastil, Katherine Knobloch, and colleagues.  Data for the study were obtained from researchers’ surveys completed daily by the Oregon CIR panelists, the panelists’ final evaluations of the Oregon CIR, and telephone and online surveys of Oregon citizens respecting their attitudes towards and knowledge of Measures 73 and 74 and their use of the official Oregon voters’ guide and the Citizens’ Statements. The online survey, of a panel of Oregon voters questioned first in August 2010 and then again in the two weeks before the November 2010 election, included an experiment to test the influence of the Citizens’ Statement on voters’ knowledge of and attitudes towards Measures 73 and 74.  

The key results of the study, in terms of the 2010 Oregon CIR panelists and their Citizens’ Statements, were:
  • The deliberations yielded sufficient information and featured a sufficiently rigorous analysis of the initiatives to enable the panelists to make an informed decision about the initiatives.
  • The CIR process was fair. A large majority of panelists were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the neutrality of the CIR organizers and moderators.
  • The democratic quality of the deliberations was high. Panelists had equal opportunities to participate, treated each other respectfully, and maintained open minds towards others’ views.
  • Panelists experienced large changes in attitude toward the initiatives during the deliberations. Each 2010 Oregon CIR began with a large number of undecided panelists and concluded with all or nearly all panelists' supporting or opposing the initiative. For details see the Measure 73 case study and the Measure 74 case study.
  • The quality of the Citizens’ Statements was high. The statements contained no substantial factual or logical errors and the statements accurately reflected the panelists’ deliberations and provided new and useful information for voters.
In terms of the influence of the 2010 Citizens’ Statements on Oregon voters, the key results of the study were: 
  • Most Oregon voters (58%) were unaware of the 2010 Oregon CIR and most did not read the Citizens’ Statements.
  • 44% of Oregon voters who read the Measure 73 Citizens’ Statement and 31% of those who read the Measure 74 Citizens' Statement learned new arguments or information from the statements.
  • Voters who read the Citizens’ Statements spent much more time (an average of 11 minutes) reading the Citizens’ Statements than reading other sections of the official Oregon voters’ pamphlet (average durations of 3 to 6 minutes per section).
  • Reading the Citizens' Statements significantly increased voters' knowledge of and reduced voters' support for the initiatives. For details see the Measure 73 case study and the Measure 74 case study.
  • The effect of reading the Citizens' Statements on voters' opposition to the initiatives was too small to have influenced the outcome of the 2010 Oregon statewide election, but was large enough to indicate that in a future close ballot initiative election a Citizens' Statement could potentially influence the outcome. 

For detailed evaluation results for Oregon CIR 2010 Measure 73, click here.

For detailed evaluation results for Oregon CIR 2010 Measure 74, click here.

Critics and Reception

The response to the Oregon CIR has taken several forms.

The Oregon Legislature, in the preamble to the 2011 statute making the Oregon CIR a permanent part of Oregon's statewide initiative process, concluded that the 2010 Oregon CIR Citizens' Statements had "been valuable to Oregon voters." Gastil and Knobloch's 2010 study concluded that the CIR design used during the 2010 Oregon CIRs had been generally "appropriate and effective." In their 2010 report and in subsequent papers they also recommended several modifications to the CIR process:
  • To enhance the stability and the knowledge base of a CIR, a CIR in a particular jurisdiction should be governed by a permanent board, whose members should include CIR organizers and moderators, public officials from the jurisdiction, and former CIR panelists.
  • If possible, CIR organizers should try to hold CIRs on every ballot initiative to appear on a ballot, and to schedule CIRs well in advance to allow advocates, stakeholders, and expert witnesses ample time to prepare their presentations.
  • CIR organizers should offer advocates training concerning how to make effective presentations to a CIR panel, because advocates are likely to be unfamiliar with the procedures and time constraints of the CIR.
  • If fewer than all initiatives to appear on a ballot can be addressed by CIRs, when choosing which ballot initiatives to review, CIR organizers should use particular selection criteria, such as the fiscal or legal impact of the initiative, the complexity of the issue, and the extent of voters’ uncertainty about the issue. Using such selection criteria will ensure that CIRs address ballot initiatives about which voters most need information.
  • The voting requirement for including a key factual finding in a Citizens’ Statement should be raised from 14 to 18, to ensure that included findings have broad support among panelists.
  • Citizens’ Statements should address general concerns and include value-based arguments, so as to be more accessible and relevant to voters.
  • CIR organizers should assure panelists that unanimous support for or opposition to a ballot initiative is an acceptable outcome of the CIR. This assurance should prevent panelists from taking a position that is contrary to their views, merely in order to avoid a unanimous outcome.
  • CIR organizers should give panelists sufficient time to deliberate about their reasons for approving and opposing the initiative, especially when one side has relatively little support, because such deliberation improves the quality of those reasons.
In 2009 the Citizens in Charge Foundation -- an organization dedicated to improving the ballot initiative process -- awarded Healthy Democracy Oregon the John Lilburne Award for HDO's contribution to improving citizen’s participation in democracy. 

The Social Capital Review published an article, by DeAnna Martin, about the Oregon CIR. The article summarized the Oregon CIR process in a positive light. The article compared the Oregon CIR's participant-selection procedure to the Jury Process, and saw the Oregon CIR as a beneficial addition to Oregon’s democracy.

An article written in The Oregonian focuses on the 2008 “field test” conducted by Healthy Democracy Oregon. The article describes a consistency between the results of the “field test” and the results of the 2008 Oregon statewide election itself. In both circumstances Oregon citizens rejected initiative 58, which would have mandated that non-English speaking students be taught only in English after one or two years. The article quoted one of the 23 panelists who had had a positive experience at the “field test.”

Some criticisms of the Oregon CIR have been expressed by proponents of Measure 73. These advocates argued that the Oregon CIR process was flawed on the grounds that the Oregon CIR sampling procedure was not stratified on the basis of support for or opposition to the measures; that advocates were not allowed to cross-examine other advocates, stakeholders, or background witnesses; and that advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses were not required to testify under oath.

Secondary Sources

Binder, M., Boudreau, C., & Kousser, T. (2011). Shortcuts to deliberation? How cues reshape the role of information in direct democracy voting. California Western Law Review, 48, 97-128.

Ned Crosby and John C. Hottinger. (2011). The Citizens Jury Process. Book of the States, 2011, pp. 321-325, http://knowledgecenter.csg.org/drupal/system/files/Crosby2011.pdf

John Gastil. (2000). By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy through Deliberative Elections. Berkeley: University of California Press.

John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch. (2010). Evaluation Report to the Oregon State Legislature on the 2010 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review. http://www.la1.psu.edu/cas/jgastil/CIR/OregonLegislativeReportCIR.pdf

John Gastil, Katherine Knobloch, Justin Reedy, Mark Henkels, and Katherine Cramer Walsh. (2011). Hearing a Public Voice in Micro-Level Deliberation and Macro-Level Politics: Assessing the Impact of the Citizens’ Initiative Review on the Oregon Electorate. Paper Presented at NCA 2011: Annual Conference of the National Communication Association, held November 17-20, 2011, New Orleans, Louisiana.

John Gastil, Katherine Knobloch, and Robert Richards. (2012). Vicarious Deliberation: How the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Influences Deliberation in Mass Elections. Paper Presented at RSA 2012: The 15th Biennial Conference of the Rhetoric Society of America, May 23-28, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

John  Gastil and Robert Richards. (2012). Making Direct Democracy Deliberative through Random Assemblies, Paper to Be Presented at ASA 2012: The Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 17-20, 2012, Denver, Colorado.

Betsy Hammond. (2008, September 25). Citizen Panel: Reject Limit on Bilingual Education. The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2008/09/citizen_panel_reje...

Katherine Knobloch, John Gastil, Justin Reedy, and Katherine Cramer Walsh. (2011). Did They Deliberate? Applying a Theoretical Model of Democratic Deliberation to the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review. Paper Presented at NCA 2011: Annual Conference of the National Communication Association, held November 17-20, 2011, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Katherine Knobloch and Rory Raabe. (2011). Exploring the Effects of Deliberative Participation through Panelist Self-Reports. Paper Presented at NCA 2011: Annual Conference of the National Communication Association, held November 17-20, 2011, New Orleans, Louisiana.

League of Women Voters of Oregon. (2001). Oregon’s Initiative System: An Update by the League of Women Voters of Oregon Education Fund (archived version),  http://web.archive.org/web/20101219090403/http://lwvor.org/documents/Ini...

DeAnna Martin. (2010, April 20). Citizen Initiative Review to Educate Oregonians on Ballot Measures. Social Capital Review, http://socialcapitalreview.org/citizen-initiative-review-to-educate-oreg...

External Links

Healthy Democracy Fund, Programs and Projects, http://healthydemocracyfund.org/programs-projects/

Healthy Democracy Oregon. (2010). Citizens’ Initiative Review 2010, Measure 73, Interim Final Report. Portland, OR: Healthy Democracy Oregon. http://cirarchive.org/media/attachments/documents/M73_Final_Report.pdf

Healthy Democracy Oregon. (2010). Citizens’ Initiative Review 2010, Measure 74, Interim Final Report. Portland, OR: Healthy Democracy Oregon. http://cirarchive.org/media/attachments/documents/M74_Final_Report.pdf

Healthy Democracy Oregon, Citizens’ Initiative Review, http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/citizens-initiative-review

Healthy Democracy Oregon, Citizens’ Initiative Review Video, http://www.healthydemocracyoregon.org/citizens-initiative-review-video

Healthy Democracy Oregon, Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.healthydemocracyoregon.org/frequently-asked-questions

Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review. (2008). Citizens' Initiative Review: Ballot measure 58. oregonlive.com

Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review, 2010, Archive Website, http://cirarchive.org/

Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review, 2010, Measure 73. (2010). Citizens' Initiative Review of Measure 73. [a.k.a., Measure 73 Citizens' Statement]. Salem, OR: Oregon Secretary of State. http://cirarchive.org/media/attachments/documents/statements/M73_Citizens_Statement.pdf

Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review, 2010, Measure 74. (2010). Citizens' Initiative Review of Measure 74. [a.k.a., Measure 74 Citizens' Statement]. Salem, OR: Oregon Secretary of State. http://cirarchive.org/media/attachments/documents/statements/M74_Citizens_Statement.pdf

Oregon Laws, 2009, Chapter 632 (HB 2895), http://www.leg.state.or.us/09orlaws/sess0600.dir/0632.htm

Oregon Laws, 2011, Chapter 365 (HB 2634), http://www.leg.state.or.us/11orlaws/sess0300.dir/0365.html

Oregon Secretary of State. (2010). Voters’ Pamphlet, Oregon General Election, November, 2, 2010http://oregonvotes.org/doc/history/nov22010/guide/book13.pdf

Promoting Healthy Democracy, http://promotinghealthydemocracy.org/