In March 2017 the Davenport Institute at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and Oregon-based non-profit Healthy Democracy partnered to host the first-ever Citizens’ Initiative Review Demonstration in the state of California. Public Agenda – a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and work together to find solutions— joined the team to deepen the impact of the CIR demonstration on policy-makers and thought leaders in California and beyond.
The Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is an innovative way of publicly evaluating ballot measures so voters have clear, useful, and trustworthy information. During the CIR, a panel of demographically-balanced voters is brought together from across the state to hear from advocates and experts and to deliberate together to evaluate a ballot measure. The panel drafts a Citizens’ Statement outlining the most important facts about the ballot measure and identifying the strongest arguments for and against the measure. The CIR has been used in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and Massachusetts. The March demonstration was the first experiment with the CIR in California.
For the purposes of demonstration, the citizen panel was comprised of a group of students from undergrad and graduate schools from across California that was diverse in terms of politics, gender, and ethnicity. They deliberated on Prop 61: Drug Pricing Limits from the November 2016 ballot. Though the demonstration project was shorter and less representative than a full CIR, it provided a chance to see how a CIR could work in California.
Over the course of the next year, Healthy Democracy, the Davenport Institute, and Public Agenda, will be sharing this story to demonstrate how citizen participation can make the initiative process more transparent, more understandable, and more independent of campaign funding.
The project seeks to raise awareness of the CIR among California policy-makers, academics, members of the media and other thought leaders to inform conversations around initiative reform in the Golden State. Beyond this conversation, we hope to generate momentum for both.