Citizen Juries institutionalized in Oregon

From America Speaks July newsletter:

Last month, our movement saw a new victory with the institutionalization of Citizen Juries in Oregon.

On June 16, Governor Kitzhaber—with strong bipartisan support from the state House and  Senate—signed in legislation continuing the Citizens’ Initiative Review (HB 2634).  This law establishes the legal framework to provide Oregon voters with reliable, high-quality, citizen-driven information about ballot measures. When future ballot issues arise, a random sample of Oregonians—peers of the voters—will engage in pro/con deliberation and will summarize their findings in a one-page citizen statement. On the day of the election, all voters see a printed version of the citizen statement in the voter pamphlet.

9 Responses

  1. Random sample of what — a pool of volunteers or the electoral roll? If the latter, then what measures are taken to ensure that as many as possible of those selected take up the offer? How long is the period of deliberation and how are pro/con advocates and information provided? Who moderates the debate, and who gets to write the summary statement? Does the statement simply summarise the debate or are participants’ preferences indicated by recording votes? Given that the statement is only one page long then there would be no space for the arguments, only a statistical formulation as to how convincing the participants found them to be — ideally by way of a final pro/con jury vote. In which case you might as well scrap the macro ballot as this would be akin to a trial jury having an advisory rather than a decisive role. But it’s a step in the right direction.


  2. Keith,

    Here is a summary of the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Process from

    Citizens’ Initiative Review Panels consist of
    18 -24 randomly-selected registered voters
    that are demographically-balanced to
    reflect the state’s electorate. Demographics
    must at a minimum include: A) the location
    of the elector’s residence, (B) the elector’s
    party affiliation, if any, (C) the elector’s
    voting history, and (D) the elector’s age. In
    addition, demographic variables including,
    gender, ethnicity, educational attainment,
    and income will be incorporated to the
    extent practicable and legally permissible.
    Panelists are given a per diem of $150 a day
    and travel, lodging, and meal expenses are
    covered by the convening organization to
    ensure widespread participation.
    For each ballot measure evaluated, a
    separate panel will be convened.
    The Review process is five consecutive days
    in length and is moderated by two highly
    trained professionals.
    The resulting “Citizens Statement” will be
    printed in the Voters’ Pamphlet, and may
    include summary positions for and against
    the measure, a summary of key findings
    about the measure, and a summary of
    additional fiscal and policy considerations
    — all at 250 words or less each.


  3. OK but the devil is in the detail — from an initial random sample of 10,000 invitees, “several hundred” volunteer to make up the pool for a second (stratified) sortition. The organisers claim that no self-selection is involved, yet what other principle can account for this dramatic narrowing of the field? Did 9,000+ invitations get randomly lost in the post? Given that they end up with panels of 24, this is in not an accurate descriptive sample in any respect other than the criteria that the organisers deem to be salient (age, gender, ethnicity, education, partisan affiliation and location of residence). Most proponents of deliberation prefer to use small groups of volunteers as this enhances the quality of the debate, but it’s profoundly undemocratic as it unduly privileges 24 self-selected individuals. Given that the purpose of this exercise is to provide balanced information for the electorate and great emphasis is placed on impartial moderation then why bother with the deliberation stage? Why not just get the different advocates to summarise their positions under the watchful gaze of the moderators, with a strict word limit for each party? And why go to the expense of sending out 10,000 invitations — why not just invite all citizens to apply as the effect would be exactly the same?


  4. Click to access CIR-2016-Massachusetts-Report-1z9k7np.pdf

    3.3 Summary

    Overall, the results in this section parallel previous studies of the CIR in Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona: Voters want better information about ballot measures, and they generally rate the CIR as informative and useful, even if they want to know more about its process.

    yes, we do

    And we also notice that the CIR is expanding what makes a better understanding of ‘stratified sampling’, with all their different applications, even more necessary.


  5. The Oregon CIR Academic workshop on saturday 18 mai

    International conference
    Direct Democracy v. Populism
    Geneva, 17-18 May 2019

    17 May 2019
    Genève, Uni-Bastions (salle B112)
    Conférence publique
    Mot de bienvenue
    Introduction: Nenad Stojanović (Université de Genève; responsable du projet FNS
    « Une théorie non-populiste de la démocratie directe »)
    « Démocratie directe et pouvoirs intermédiaires »
    Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University)
    18:00 Table ronde
    Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University)
    avec Andreas Gross (Helmut Schmidt Universität; Conseiller national 1991-2015)
    Laurence Morel (Université de Lille)
    Yannis Papadopoulos (Université de Lausanne)
    Discussion avec le public
    Fin de la conférence publique
    L’entrée est libre mais les places sont limitées. Veuillez réserver votre place avant le 10 mai
    2019 en écrivant à

    A. Gross, Die unvollendete Direkte Demokratie (Werdt Verlag, 2016).
    L. Morel & M. Qvortrup (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Referendums and Direct Democracy (Routledge, 2018).
    J.-W. Müller, Qu’est-ce que le populisme? Définir enfin la menace (Ed. Premier Parallèle, 2016).
    Y. Papadopoulos, Démocratie directe (Economica, 1998).

    Saturday 18 May 2019
    Geneva, Uni-Mail (room M 2130)
    Academic workshop
    Introduction. Combining sortition, deliberation and direct democracy:
    the potential of the Oregon model (Citizens’ Initiative Review CIR)
    Alexander Geisler (Université de Genève): « Preliminary results of a CIR-like pilot study conducted with students from the University of Geneva »
    Charly Pache (Université de Genève; member CIR team Massachusetts Sept 2018)
    Victor Sanchez (Université de Genève)
    « Citizens’ Initiative Review as a remedy to problems of referendums:
    preliminary results from Finland »
    Maija Setälä (Turun Yliopisto • University of Turku)
    Dimitri Courant (Université de Lausanne & Université Paris 8)
    Panel 1. Must direct democracy be populist?
    Laurence Morel (Université de Lille)
    « Populism and direct democracy in France and Italy »
    Yanina Welp (Zentrum für Demokratie Aarau)
    « Populism and direct democracy in Latin America »
    Yannis Papadopoulos (Université de Lausanne)
    Alexander Trechsel (Universität Luzern; tbc)
    12:15 Lunch break
    Poster Session

    « Having designs on direct democracy »
    Michael Saward (University of Warwick)
    Emanuela Ceva (Università degli studi di Pavia)
    Panel 2: Theoretical perspectives on direct democracy
    Alice El-Wakil (Universität Zürich)
    « Bottom-up popular vote processes and nonelected representatives »
    Joseph Lacey (University of Dublin)
    « A rational reconstruction of the referendum process »
    Matteo Gianni (Université de Genève)
    Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University)
    Final discussion and concluding remarks
    Nenad Stojanović (Université de Genève)

    [Keynotes: max 45’. Panel presentations: max 15′. Discussants: max 7’.]
    Registration for the workshop is free but places are limited for catering purposes. If you would like to register please contact, before 2 May 2019,
    Call for Posters
    You currently work (or have worked or are planning to work…) on a project on direct democracy, democratic theory, democratic innovations, sortition or populism? Send us your poster proposal by 15 April. Accepted authors will be notified by 17 April. Submissions and
    further information:


  6. The information of the citizens, foregoing on a referendum, is of crucial importance. Fake news is not invented today but the means of spreading it was never so easy and fast. Today the information is delivered by media and special interest of all kind and, there where it is a legal obligation, also an information brochure is drafted and delivered by government.

    The information delivered by government is motivated by the argument that they have the possibility and capability to publish an objective oversight of the pro and con’s of the proposition. This presupposes that the redaction is done by informed and neutral people. It is clear that, because most of the initiatives and referendums are against government proposals, interests or recommendations, this is highly doubtful.

    It was in Oregon that the first Citizens Initiative Review took place in 2008. Since then the idea and application is spreading.

    With the spreading also criticism is picking up some steam.
    We can divide the criticism in two main parts:
    – the sortition system itself
    – the procedures of the panel

    for the criticism on the procedures we can refer to Participedia .

    For the criticism of the sortition system we can refer to
    James Fishkin where he states that the system is ‘vulnerable’ because it is far from descriptive representative.
    (p288 Deliberative polling): Only random sampling assures everyone an equal probability of being chosen to participate. Only random sampling allows measurement of the degree of certainty associated with the sample estimates (estimated standard errors, margins of errors, confidence intervals, statistical significance , etc..)

    Even if participation is voluntary (we propose it is compulsory but nevertheless it can not be avoided that some people don’t want to participate), he (James Fishkin) investigates if his sample is ‘representative’ by comparing the participants with those who do not want to participate in order to insure that his sample is still representative (p 290 Deliberative polling).

    We have also to bear in mind that criticism from ‘proponents’ is very friendly compared with criticism from subject educated and eventually well payed opponents.

    For the evaluation (for dummies) of sortition systems we have several documents and propositions on Academia
    – Nederlands
    – Françaisésigner-une-assemblée-citoyenne-tiré-au-sort
    – English’-representation
    – Deutsh (only the basic document)ür-Ernennung-einer-Volksvertretung

    An evaluation grid is also available

    What we are looking for at the moment is an evaluation methode of the selection proces for panels like the Oregon Citizens Initiative Review.
    Those panels don’t answer to any of the ‘democratic principles’ mentioned in except maybe the ‘equality’ depending on the sortiton methode used.

    III- Democratic principles
    I will distinguish four democratic principles, or values, of sortition: equality, impartiality, representativeness and legitimacy, each being subdivided in three elements.

    For example: The 20 Review panelists were randomly selected from registered voters in Massachusetts using a scientific method to ensure it is representative of the overall electorate based on place of residence, party affiliation, age, gender, educational attainment, and race/ethnicity.

    The question is: in how far can we put ‘democracy’ in the hands of specialists who’s work we, as citizens, can’t evaluate and by consequence neither can we evaluate the results. Is a (scientifically) ‘manipulated system’ that aims by the means of stratification and correction by specialists for ‘maximal diversity’? acceptable in a democratic proces that needs also equality, impartiality, representativeness and legitimacy? Is it possible to develop a selection system that is in compliance of the criteria (Dimitri Courant for example) for the use of sortition in the ‘democracy’ domain.



  7. I was amused by an alert I received to a new paper on the topic of juries. I’m not sure if it’s a Alan Sokal-style hoax, as it was uploaded on April Fool’s Day:

    The failure of hegemonic norms: A Non-Eurocentric account of Critical Cosmopolitan Social Theory and Critical Democracy

    The first part of this paper takes-up the opportunity to draw on global perspectives to present a problem-orientated conceptually non-Western centric account of critical cosmopolitanism capable of cutting across disciplinary and epistemic boundaries. This can cut across disciplinary and epistemic boundaries. This is comprised of two stages. First, a conceptual persona was derived through an initial synthesis of the positive aspects of critical theory and decolonial theory. However, to overcome conceptual abstractions the synthesis was embedded in the socio-epistemology of Watsuji Tetsurō. This allowed for the relationship between self, other and the world to understood within a social ontology of concentric dualisms as co- cognitive, interconnected and interpenetrative: self-other-world. Such an account of post-individual subjectivity maintains the infinity of otherness but simultaneously invokes the infinite resources of self. In establishing such a conceptual persona within the space of the practical act-connections of life bridges the gap between the self and society to provides a mechanism for change focused on the enunciation of injustice. The second part of the paper argues that such an account of personhood as an embodied epistemic and political site provides an opportunity for the positive subversion of the one-directionality of political power through the mechanism of the principle of nullification by jury. It’s incorporation as a corollary of the synthesis’s account of subjectivity acts within the co-cognitive space of communication which include the social, historical, political, and emotional contexts that informs any society. As a ceaseless institutional observation of the political the practical act of politics of the jury could provide a significant means of realizing, legitimating and preserving the practical act-connections of democratic life.


  8. PS from looking at the author profile: I think it’s genuine. This sort of stuff gives social science a bad name.


  9. […] A 2014 paper by David Altman, professor of political science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, proposes using citizen juries as part of the intiative/referendum process in a way that goes beyond Citizen Initiative Review. […]


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