Good News September 15, 2018: Ideas and Actions Transforming Democracy

Innovation of the Month: Citizens’ Initiative Review by Healthy Democracy


It was a privilege to observe the most recent Citizens’ Initiative Review process in Portland, Oregon.  20 randomly selected and demographically representative people served on a 4-day panel.  Their role was to understand an initiative that is on the Portland Metro ballot in November and write a 750-word explanation of the initiative that outlines key findings, reasons to support the initiative, and reasons to vote against the initiative. Their continual commitment to excellence throughout the 4-days was a joy to observe.  They were there to support their friends and community members so that each person casting a vote would understand more clearly what the initiative says in plain English, the values that underlie both a vote for and a vote against, and potential unintended consequences.  They continually came back to data shared by independent experts, advocates for or against, each time checking to see if the information was strong, reliable, and verifiable through an independent source.  By the end of the experience 19 out of 20 panelists voted to adopt the statement they had prepared for wide distribution. 

When I first got involved with Healthy Democracy as a volunteer, I interviewed several people who had participated in this process.  Each one of them talked about what a rewarding experience it was of real democracy and how they wanted to see citizens’ juries used much more frequently as a clarifying and decision making tool.  If you would like to hear what people have to say about this innovative process, watch the video on Healthy Democracy’s home page.

This joint statement was written by panelists who participated in a CIR in Massachusetts in 2016:

Many of us consider [the CIR] to be our most meaningful experience in politics. And for those of us who have struggled to keep faith in the political system, it helped to restore it. 

Good News All Around