Healthy Democracy Oregon is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to strengthening the integrity of the ballot initiative process. Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO) has created a valuable new public service called the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR). The Citizens’ Initiative Review presents voters with clear, useful, and trustworthy evaluations of statewide ballot measures.
Healthy Democracy Oregon was formed in early 2007 by Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford, colleagues from the University of Oregon. While in graduate school in 2003, Reitman and Shuford's studies focused on methods of citizen deliberation and democratic reform policies. Reitman and Shuford debated the merits of different reform ideas, including the Citizens’ Initiative Review —an idea Shuford had recently learned about.
The formation of Healthy Democracy Oregon followed both good timing and a bit of luck a few years later. Like many Oregonians, Reitman and Shuford were concerned about the quality of information in the initiative process. The debate between Reitman and Shuford was settled in early 2006 when Reitman contacted Shuford to explore the idea of promoting the Citizens’ Initiative Review. Shortly thereafter, Reitman and Shuford approached Ned Crosby, the founder of the Jefferson Center (the organization that developed the underlying model of citizen deliberation for the CIR) and his wife, Patricia Benn about the possibility of collaborating on such a project. Crosby and Benn had been working in Washington state on the CIR proposal and upon multiple meetings with Reitman and Shuford agreed to provide funding to start Healthy Democracy Oregon.
Setting out to improve Oregon's initiative process by developing the CIR with Crosby and Benn's help, the team enlisted the support of good government advocates, former Secretaries of State, legislators from both parties and the citizens of Oregon. To date, HDO has signed on over 30,000 Oregonians in support of the Citizens’ Initiative Review.
From 2008 to 2009, Healthy Democracy Oregon worked with members of the Oregon Legislature to develop an official ‘pilot’ of the Citizens’ Initiative Review. In 2009, the Oregon legislature approved a pilot of the Citizens’ Initiative Review for the 2010 election. Based on that legislation, Healthy Democracy Oregon worked with the Secretary of State’s office, State Elections Office, campaign spokespeople, and policy experts to convene two Reviews in August, 2010. A team led by nationally recognized researchers, and backed by funding from the National Science Foundation, evaluated the Reviews and confirmed that the Reviews were high-quality, fair and of great use to voters (see their findings). In addition, the media paid close attention to the CIR pilot and it was widely regarded as a huge success.
Healthy Democracy Oregon’s goal is to maintain the CIR as an ongoing public service for the voters of Oregon.
During the 2011 Legislative Session, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2634 which made the Citizens’ Initiative Review a permanent part of Oregon elections. It also created an independent commission to oversee and conduct the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) in Oregon. The CIR Commission is the official authority on how the CIR works, how it is administered, and what measures are selected for review. Oregon is the first state in the nation to adopt this innovative policy into law.
Our sister 501(c)(3) organization, Healthy Democracy, is working with the new Citizens' Initiative Review Commission (CIRC) to run CIRs for two ballot measures in August 2012. For updates on the 2012 CIRs, visit www.healthydemocracy.org.