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Reviewing Democracy

A nonprofit group has brought together a randomly selected group of citizens to act as a kind of jury to assess two of the initiatives on this year’s ballot. The nonprofit Healthy Democracy Oregon designed each panel of 24 people per ballot measure to represent the demographics of the Oregon electorate. There are no state dollars involved, but the 2009 legislature did pass a bill officially approving this political experiment.

The Citizens’ Initiative Review will vote on the merits of each measure and share their views with the public in the official voter’s pamphlet. A pilot panel met in 2008 to review Measure 58, but this is the first time the group’s findings will appear in the voter’s guide alongside the official ballot language, as well as the arguments for and against each measure. Healthy Democracy Oregon will have to pay for the space, just like other groups that use the voter’s guide to disseminate their arguments for and against ballot measures.

A panel met last week to hear testimony on Measure 73 and of the two dozen panelists, 21 opposed the mandatory minimum sentencing measure. Proponents of Measure 73 raised concerns about the process, which they say was not entirely fair or accurate. This week, a new panel will spend 40 hours assessing Measure 74, which would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon.

How do you decide how you’ll vote on a ballot measure? Is input from a panel of citizens helpful to you? Did you consider throwing your hat in the ring to be part of the Citizens’ Initiative Review? Would you consider doing so for future elections?


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