Amherst League of Women Voters

A Voice for Citizens, a Force for Change

Consensus Question 3

Question 3 in the Massachusetts Leagues' study of the Ballot Question Process asks "Should the arguments in favor and against in the “Information for Voters” red booklet be prepared by an independent source such as a citizen group appointed for that purpose rather than, or in addition to, the proponents and opponents identified by the Secretary of the Commonwealth?"

Currently, the 150-word arguments are written by proponents and opponents of each question, identified by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The Secretary makes no attempt to certify the truth or accuracy of any statement made in these arguments. It keeps any written comments by others about each argument on file but these are not available on line.

In 2016 and 2018, a new process, the Citizen's Initiative Review (CIR) was piloted in Massachusetts. "Under the CIR system, citizen panels representative of the overall voter population conduct in-depth deliberations on ballot questions. The panels hear from advocates and experts on all sides of a question and present its findings in a Citizens’ Statement, which will be placed in newspapers and other media outlets across Massachusetts for the benefit of voters." www.cirmass.org.

The 2018 CIR statement dealt with Ballot Question 1 on mandating nursing staff ratios. After summarizing the key points of the measure, their one-page report lists what the 20 members of the panel found to be the most compelling arguments for and against the measure. Is their presentation, not significantly longer than the summary and pros and cons found in the Red Book, easier to understand or more informative than the information in the Red Book?

In Oregon, the Citizens Initiative Review is an official part of state elections, and the CIR statement is sent to every registered voter in the state as part of the official Voters’ Pamphlet. However, no statewide review took place in 2018 due to a lack of funding. Healthy Democracy, the organization that developed the Citizens Initiative Review process, estimates costs at including venue, food, transportation, panelist stipends, lodging, materials, and staff time between $65,000 and $125,000 per measure.

Information on Consensus Question 3 is found on p. 5 of the Study Guide.