The Citizen Initiative Review (CIR) is a political process through which an official citizen deliberative council reviews proposed ballot initiatives and summarizes their findings and recommendations in voter information booklets. More information about this process is given in the write-up below, at http://www.cirwa.org, and at Healthy Democracy
A major effort is underway to establish the CIR in Washington State. Although an effort in 2002-2003 stalled, there now seems to be quite a bit of interest on the part of legislators and others. The current goal is to get the legislature to adopt it in 2007, or to put the CIR into a ballot initiative either in 2007 or 2008. There is also some interest from the grassroots and state government in Oregon.
The following summary is excerpted from
Do You Want A Free Pony?
An Analysis of the Initiative and Referendum Process in Washington State
Released June, 2002
by the Municipal League of King County Initiative Study Task Force
Citizen Initiative Review (CIR): This proposal would create a system of citizen panels to study each proposed initiative in depth. Similar to juries convened in the judicial system, twenty-four randomly selected people would hear expert testimony and deliberate the merits and impacts of proposed initiatives and referenda. Following deliberation, the jury would issue its analysis and findings to the public. This process has been studied and refined for twenty-seven years in the United States and has been successfully implemented in several states (most notably Minnesota and Pennsylvania) and on national and international levels. Both England and Germany use this type of citizen jury. Voters would hear what "average" citizens think about and want from initiatives rather than only hearing sound bites from paid political advertisers. The jury's verdict need not be unanimous. Voters would get a one-page summary of the final results, including the reasons behind the votes, via the state Voters' Pamphlet and the Secretary of State's office, through the media, the Internet, and other sources. Highlights of the plan include:
The extensive research and use of citizen jury processes suggest that they are effective, independent, and bring unique perspectives into a political debate outside the usual political spin dominated by money and established interest groups. The jury system is a tried and trusted mechanism for coming to decisions in this country.
NOTE: A very different concept of citizens initiative review has been proposed in which the citizen panel is a standing committee appointed by the state government, rather than a temporary "citizens jury" of randomly selected citizens. An example of this type of proposed legislation is available at http://www.leg.state.or.us/99reg/measures/hb3400.dir/hb3487.int.html
While this institution would be preferable to the manipulated PR environment of most current initiative processes, it, itself, would probably be more subject to political manipulation than the randomly selected panels proposed in the CIRs described earlier.