Deliberative democratic theory has proposed the use of mini-publics to discern a more reflective public opinion, which can then be conveyed to policymakers or back to the wider public. In 2009, the legislature in the State of Oregon (USA) created one such process in the Citizens’ Initiative Review to help the public make informed choices on statewide ballot measures. This study investigated how the public conceptualizes and assesses the Citizens’ Statements that Citizens’ Initiative Review panels place in the statewide Voters’ Pamphlet. We pose a series of research questions concerning how the public perceives the role of the Citizens’ Initiative Review in initiative elections. We investigate those questions with usability testing sessions held in the final weeks before the 2014 election. Forty interviews were conducted in Portland, Oregon, and 20 were held in Denver, CO, where a pilot version of the Citizens’ Initiative Review was held. Online survey data collected in Oregon and Colorado followed up on the themes that emerged from the usability tests to obtain more general findings about these electorates’ views of elections and the Citizens’ Initiative Review. Key results showed that voters found the Citizens’ Initiative Review Statements to be a useful alternative source of information, although they required more information about the Citizens’ Initiative Review to make robust trust judgments about the process. Voters were uncertain of the value of the vote tally provided by Citizens’ Initiative Review panelists, but reading the Citizens’ Initiative Review Statement inspired some to vote on ballot measures they might have skipped.
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