A review of a state-wide ballot initiative on the regulated distribution of medical marijuana. Using Oregon's unique system of Citizens' Initiative Review, participants deliberated for several days to deliver an informed judgement which was circulated to state ballot voters.
Problems and Purpose
Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review 2010 Measure 74 (Oregon CIR 2010 M74) was a Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR) held in the U.S. state of Oregon, on the topic of Measure 74, a proposed statute that would have created a regulated distribution system for medical marijuana in Oregon. A Citizen's Initiative Review is a Citizens’ Jury that deliberates about a ballot initiative. The Citizens' Initiative Review that has been incorporated into the Oregon statewide ballot initiative process is called the Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review (Oregon CIR).
Background History and Context
In 2006 Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford, colleagues from the University of Oregon, 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). After a successful trial in 2008 the Oregon Legislature authorized the Oregon CIR for the 2010 election. In 2010 HDO organized two Oregon CIRs, of which Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review 2010 Measure 74, held August 16-20, was the second.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Oregon Citizens' Initiative Review 2010 Measure 74 (Oregon CIR 2010 M74) was organized by Healthy Democracy (HDO). HDO's funding for Oregon CIR 2010 M74 came from grants from foundations and nonprofit organizations, contributions from HDO board members, and private donations from Oregon citizens. Some funding for Oregon CIR 2010 M74 came from the organization Promoting Healthy Democracy, of which Crosby was a co-founder. HDO did not receive funding from the state of Oregon for Oregon CIR 2010 M74.
Participant Recruitment and 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 Oregon CIR 2010 M74, HDO used a selection process designed in cooperation with the Portland, Oregon survey research firm of Davis, Hibbitts, and Midghall, Inc. The League of Women Voters of Oregon monitored the selection process. The selection process was as follows: 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. Nonetheless, because some originally selected panelists could not attend, the Oregon CIR 2010 M74 panel differed slightly from the Oregon population in that the panel included one more college-educated member, one fewer member having a high-school education or less, one more member from each of Oregon's second and fifth congressional districts, one fewer member from Oregon’s first congressional district, one more member of the Republican Party, and one fewer politically Independent member than the selection plan provided. HDO paid panelists' travel, accommodation, and child care costs, and a stipend of $150 per day.
For Oregon CIR 2010 M74 the advocates included the proponents of the ballot initiative, Measure 74, and a sheriff and a district attorney, both of whom opposed Measure 74. Stakeholders were selected by the advocates, and included, for the proponents of Measure 74, four medical marijuana activists, three medical marijuana patients, an advocate for medical marijuana patients, a physician who conducted research on medical marijuana, and a leader of the committee that advises the Oregon Department of Human Services on the state’s medical marijuana program. The opponents of Measure 74 chose no stakeholders.
To select background witnesses HDO identified individuals recognized as experts on issues related to Measure 74 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 Measure 74. 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 Measure 74 HDO then chose the final list of background witnesses. The panel then chose to hear from seven of these background witnesses, among whom were the former deputy drug czar for the U.S. federal government, two active-duty police officers, a retired police officer, a medical marijuana patient advocate, the official who ran the rulemaking process within the Oregon Department of Public Health, and a health law researcher.
Methods and Tools Used
The Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is a Citizens’ Jury during which, panelists meet for five days to learn and deliberate on a ballot initiative, a proposed law or constitutional amendment that is drafted by, and can be enacted by a direct vote of, citizens during an upcoming election. Like other Citizens' Juries, the CIR involves various tools of engagement including surveys, information and question and answer periods, small group deliberation, debate, and plenary discussion.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Participants deliberated for five days before reaching an informed conclusoin on the ballot issue before them.
On Day 1 of the Oregon CIR 2010 M74 the CIR organizers explained the charge to the panelists. The panel’s charge was to write a Citizens’ Statement explaining key factual findings about Measure 74 that at least 14 of the 24 panelists agreed about, stating how many panelists supported or opposed Measure 74, and setting out the panelists’ arguments for supporting or opposing the measure. Each of the three parts of the Citizens’ Statement—the key findings, arguments supporting the measure, and arguments opposing the measure—was to be limited to 130 words. Next, the CIR organizers and moderators explained to the panel the CIR procedures and briefly explained Measure 74. Much of Day 1 consisted of a practice deliberation in which the panelists gained experience in using the CIR procedures by applying those procedures to a hypothetical ballot initiative concerning a bond issue to fund the preservation of a historic courthouse in a fictional Oregon town.
The next three days were dedicated to hearings at which advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses presented arguments and information to the panel. During the hearings panelists were given the opportunity to ask question of the advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses. On each day after the hearings panelists deliberated in small groups, and then engaged in a discussion among all the panelists during which panelists shared results of their small-group discussions. Each day each panelist was 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. (The daily seating assignments were made manually and were not randomized.) Trained moderators led the questioning and deliberations to ensure that all advocates, stakeholders, and background witnesses were treated fairly and that all panelists had the opportunity to be heard.
At the end of each day panelists completed surveys about the substance and quality of their deliberations. The surveys were designed and distributed by John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch, researchers who conducted a formal study of the Oregon 2010 CIRs.
Deliberations during Days 2, 3, 4, and the morning of Day 5, which were held in public and were videorecorded, focused on information gathering. During deliberations on the afternoon of Day 5 panelists made final judgments about whether to support or oppose Measure 74 and then, during discussions that were held in private and not recorded, formulated arguments to justify those judgments.
On Day 2 in the morning panelists heard arguments from advocates and stakeholders supporting or opposing Measure 74. In the afternoon as part of the full-panel discussion panelists chose background witnesses whom they wished to hear from, advocates and stakeholders whom they wished to hear from a second time, and questions they wished to ask the witnesses, advocates, and stakeholders.
On Day 3 the background witnesses, advocates, and stakeholders chosen the day before made presentations to the panelists. Panelists’ deliberations concerned identifying key factual findings concerning Measure 74 and stating what panelists considered to be the most persuasive reasons for supporting or opposing Measure 74.
On Day 4 advocates made closing arguments in the morning. In the afternoon of Day 4 and the morning of Day 5 panelists finalized the phrasing of key factual findings concerning Measure 74 and voted to identify the most important of those findings. Some panelists also met in groups on the evening of Day 4 to revise the wording of some key factual findings. A vote of 14 out of 24 panelists was needed for a key finding to be included in the Citizens’ Statement. In addition panelists discussed whether they supported or opposed Measure 74 in light of the key findings they had selected and all other information and arguments they had heard.
In the afternoon of Day 5 panelists divided into two groups: those supporting Measure 74 and those opposing the measure. During those group discussions, which were held in private and not recorded, panelists selected what they believed to be the strongest arguments justifying their positions on Measure 74 and finalized the wording of those arguments. Panelists and HDO personnel also read, fact-checked, and commented on opposing panelists' arguments, in a discussion that led to additional revisions to both sides' arguments. Those arguments were then included in the Citizens’ Statement. In the final Citizens’ Statement 13 panelists supported Measure 74 and 11 panelists opposed the measure.
After finishing their deliberations on Day 5 panelists completed an evaluation of the Oregon CIR process and of the Oregon CIR organizers and moderators. In their evaluations panelists were required to apply several criteria, including the quality of the deliberations and any bias in the process or exhibited by Oregon CIR personnel. In addition each panelist had the opportunity in the evaluation to write a personal statement expressing views that were not included in the Citizens’ Statement.
At 4:00 p.m. on Day 5 HDO held a press conference at which the panelists of Oregon CIR 2010 M74 presented their Citizens’ Statement to the public and the media.
The Citizens’ Statement was included in the official 2010 Oregon voters’ pamphlet.
Some time after Oregon CIR 2010 M74 had concluded HDO publisheda final report that included the Measure 74 Citizens’ Statement, the panelists’ evaluations of Oregon CIR 2010 M74, and descriptions of the Oregon CIR process.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
John Gastil, Katherine Knobloch, and colleagues conducted a study of the 2010 Oregon CIRs. Data for the study were obtained from the researchers’ surveys completed daily by the panelists, the panelists’ final evaluations of the Oregon CIR 2010 M74, 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 2010 Oregon voters’ guide and the Citizens’ Statements for Measures 73 and 74. 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’ Statements on voters’ knowledge of and attitudes towards Measures 73 and 74.
The key results of Gastil and Knobloch's study, in terms of the Oregon CIR 2010 M74 panelists and the Measure 74 Citizens’ Statement, were:
- The deliberations yielded sufficient information and featured a sufficiently rigorous analysis of Measure 74 to enable the panelists to make an informed decision about the measure.
- The CIR process was fair. Twenty of 24 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 a large change in attitude toward Measure 74 during the deliberations. At the beginning of the CIR 15 panelists (63%) were undecided about Measure 74, 3 supported it (13%) and 5 opposed it (21%) (one panelist did not answer the initial survey). At the end of the CIR no panelists remained undecided, 13 (54%) supported the measure, and 11 panelists (46%) opposed it.
- The quality of the Citizens’ Statement on Measure 74 was high. The statement contained no substantial factual or logical errors and the statement generally accurately reflected the panelists’ deliberations and provided new and useful information for voters.In terms of the influence of the Measure 74 Citizens’ Statement the key results of the study were:
- Most Oregon voters (58%) were unaware of the 2010 Oregon CIR and most (65%) did not read the Citizens’ Statement concerning Measure 74.
- 31% of Oregon voters who read the Measure 74 Citizens’ Statement learned new arguments or information from it.
- Voters who read the Citizens’ Statement spent much more time (an average of 11 minutes) reading the Citizens’ Statement than reading other sections of the official voters’ guide (average durations of 3 to 6 minutes per section).
- Reading the Citizens' Statement significantly increased voters' knowledge of and reduced voters' support for Measure 74. Only 39% of those who read the Citizens’ Statement supported Measure 74, compared to 47% of those who did not read the Citizens’ Statement.
- The effect of reading the Citizens' Statements on voters' opposition to Measure 74 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 influence the outcome. On November 2, 2010, Oregon voters rejected Measure 74, with 56% of voters casting ballots against the measure.In 2010 Gastil and Knobloch submitted the results of their study to the Oregon Legislature. In 2011 the Oregon Legislature passed a statute making the Oregon CIR a permanent part of Oregon’s statewide initiative process. The preamble to the statute alludes to the results of Gastil and Knobloch’s study.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Gastil and Knobloch in their 2010 report 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, which included the following:
The researchers observed that the Measure 74 Citizens’ Statement failed expressly to identify the policy problem that the measure was intended to remedy. The researchers suggested that this may have contributed to the Citizens' Statement's unexpected effect of reducing readers’ support for the measure even though a majority of panelists voted to support the measure.
The researchers also found that the Measure 74 panelists left out of their Citizens’ Statement some important types of information. These included complex factual findings, such as that the evidence showed that only certain groups of patients had experienced difficulties obtaining medical marijuana, and expressions of the tradeoffs involved in opposing or adopting the measure, such as that enacting Measure 74 might well improve patients’ access to medical marijuana but was also likely to increase drug-related crime enough to outweigh the benefits of the measure. The researchers observed that the panelists’ reluctance to include such information may have been due to difficulties of phrasing the information in a way that voters could understand, or to the absence in the Citizens’ Statement of categories of material appropriate to such information.
The researchers observed that the Day 5 deliberation in which panelists commented on arguments opposed to their own led to revisions that generally strengthened both sides’ arguments. The researchers therefore concluded that 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.
Citizens' Initiative Review
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.
John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch. (2010). Evaluation Report to the Oregon State Legislature on the 2010 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review. http://healthydemocracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/OregonLegislative...
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.
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.