The following is a press release
BOSTON – A 20-person panel of voters convened by the Massachusetts Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) pilot project has released its Citizens’ Statement on Question 1, the ballot question on nurse staffing limits.
The Citizens’ Statement is intended to assist voters by providing them with the results of their fellow citizens’ four-day deliberation on the ballot question. It sets out the panel’s key findings as well as the strongest and most reliable reasons to support or oppose Question 1.
The Citizens’ Statement is available online athttps://www.cirmass.org/the-2018-citizens-statement.
The Massachusetts Citizens’ Initiative Review deliberations were held from September 12-15 at the Watertown Free Public Library.
The campaigns for and against Question 1 both appeared before the citizen panel three times to present their arguments and answer questions.
The citizen panelists also heard from seven neutral experts in fields relevant to nursing, patient safety, and healthcare. Trained facilitators guided the deliberations that resulted in the Citizens’ Statement.
The Massachusetts CIR pilot project was organized by State Representative Jonathan Hecht in partnership with Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and Healthy Democracy, the organization that pioneered CIR in Oregon and others states. Experience in Oregon, where CIR has been part of the official election process since 2011, has shown it to be a highly effective and well-received way to inform voters about complicated ballot measures.
This is the second time Massachusetts Citizens’ Initiative Review has been used in Massachusetts.
In 2016, 77% of voters who saw the Citizens’ Statement on marijuana legalization (Question 4) said it was helpful in making their decision. On major factual issues, voters who read the Citizens’ Statement were better informed and more confident in their knowledge than those who only read the official voter guide. John Gastil, Professor of Communications at Penn State and one of the nation’s leading CIR researchers, will conduct surveys to determine how helpful the 2018 Citizens’ Statement proves for Massachusetts voters.
The 20-member citizen panel was selected from respondents to a mailer sent to 15,000 randomly-selected Massachusetts voters.
An objective, scientific method was employed to ensure the panel mirrors the demographics of the state. The panel included women and men from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, Democrats, Republicans and unenrolled voters in similar proportions as the state’s population as a whole. The panelists came from every congressional district in the state and both urban areas and small towns. Some had a high school education, while others had graduate degrees. The most senior panelist, at seventy-three, was fifty-three years older than the youngest.
“Question 1 is controversial and incredibly complex, and if it passes, would affect nearly every family in Massachusetts,” said panelist Stanley Moulton of Northampton. “During an intense four days of deliberations, we analyzed a tremendous amount of information presented by advocates for each side of the question, as well as independent experts. In this time when politics are often divisive, it was gratifying to be part of such a diverse group that came together as a team and, through civil discourse, worked through our disagreements to produce a one-page summary of key findings and arguments that will be helpful to voters in reaching a decision on Question 1.”
“I’m grateful to all the participants who contributed to making these deliberations so successful,” said State Representative Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown), local sponsor of the CIR pilot project. “It’s been exciting to see the citizen panelists’ enthusiasm for this voter-driven process. We look forward to seeing whether other voters find the Citizens’ Statement useful in making up their own minds on Question 1.”
John Rountree, a Ph.D. Candidate in Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State University and the lead CIR evaluator on Professor Gastil’s research team said, “Consistent with the CIR’s track record in Oregon and other pilot projects, I observed high quality deliberation that enabled citizen participants to consider all aspects of the ballot measure. The facilitators remained neutral and fair, while the participants expressed great satisfaction with the process overall.”