This year Massachusetts voters will head to the polls to decide whether four initiative petitions will become law.
In Massachusetts, the Secretary of the Commonwealth‘s Office publishes and distributes a voter guide, which contains information on each question. There is a summary of the proposed law, which is written by the Attorney General’s Office; an explanation of a “yes” or “no” vote, jointly authored by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and Attorney General Offices; a statement of fiscal impact, prepared by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance; and 150 word arguments provided by the “yes” and “no” campaign committees.
In addition to the voter guide, a pilot program spearheaded by the office of State Representative Jonathan Hecht, Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, and Healthy Democracy will add the voices of regular voters to information available by putting one ballot question to a Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR.) The State of Oregon has used CIR since 2011 and has found it is an effective way to communicate information to voters about ballot questions. From a pool of 10,000, 20 voters selected to reflect the demographics of the electorate, participated in four days of review and deliberation on Question 4 regarding the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana. Their findings have been drafted and published as the Citizen’s Statement, which includes key findings and arguments for and against Question 4. The results of the CIR pilot project will be studied to determine whether the process will be helpful to Massachusetts voters and expanded in future years. Representative Hecht filed a bill that would establish a permanent Citizens Initiative Review Commission in Massachusetts.
To learn more about the Massachusetts CIR Pilot Project, please go to: www.cirmass2016.org
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger