Associate Professor

Dept. of Communication
University of Washington


Quick links:

“One of the imperative needs of democratic countries is to improve citizens’ capacities to engage intelligently in political life . . . In the years to come . . . older institutions will need to be enhanced by new means for civic education, political participation, information, and deliberation that draw creatively on the array of techniques and technologies available in the twenty-first century.”

                                —Robert Dahl, On Democracy (1998), pp. 187-8.

A team of civic reformers, including Ned Crosby, Pat Benn, Elliot Shuford, and Tyrone Reitman, spurred the Oregon State Legislature to establish a Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR) process that draws on the core principles of deliberative democracy. In a nutshell, the Oregon CIR gathers a paid random-sample of Oregon residents to scrutinize statewide ballot measures. The results of each panel are then published in the official Voters' Pamphlet, which is distributed to every Oregon household that has one or more registered voters. The idea of the CIR comes from Ned's work with Citizen Juries, as well as the ideas of other processes that promote citizen deliberation in public policymaking.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, I am leading a research team that is studying the deliberative quality and electoral impact of the Oregon CIR. Results will be posted once they become available. Click here to read a brief abstract on the grant. Team members include UW doctoral candidates Katie Knobloch and Justin Reedy, along with Wisconsin professor Kathy Cramer Walsh and Mark Henkels.

Past Writings
The reason the CIR appears on my website is that it is a process very similar to the one I have advocated in my earlier book, By Popular Demand. (Also see Ned Crosby's Healthy Democracy.) I also discuss the idea in The Jury and Democracy and Political Communication and Deliberation. Ned Crosby and I have written a series of short essays on the CIR idea and related research:

CIR in Washington?
Ned Crosby initially developed the CIR proposal as a bill before the Washington legislature. Read it here. Ned Crosby and Pat Benn presented the CIR proposal to the Washington legislature in May, 2006. Thanks to TVW, you can listen to their presentation, along with questions and comments from others, including myself, click here (the relevant audio starts about a third of the way into it, so advance the play marker until you find 'em).  You can also read a story on the CIR presentation in the Tri-City Herald.

Initial Evaluation Plan
Before the CIR was implemented in Oregon, colleagues and I developed a plan for how to evaluate the effectiveness of CIR. In the last chapter of By Popular Demand, I outlined such evaluative measures, but I am developing a detailed research plan before the CIR becomes law. Click here to learn more about the initial research plan.