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March 1994

April 1994

Citizen's Jury
Legislative Alert
National Campaign for Health Care Reform
Public Forum on Health Care Reform (Irene Coogan)
Can We Look for Education Reform (Marion Saunders)
Membership Orientation Meetings (Grace Furukawa)
Busy 1994 Agenda for P & Z Committee (Astrid Monson)
Waikiki Rezoning Workshop (Astrid Monson)
Hawaii Is Seeing Too Much Violence
League of Women Voters of Honolulu Budget Report

Citizen's Jury

The political climate has deteriorated alarmingly in the last four years. Citizens have been staying away from the polls in droves. Hawaii ranks among the lowest in voter turnout among the 50 states.

People are losing confidence in the integrity of government, of politicians and even the media. They no longer have a clear idea of what the real problems of the state are.

With the level of skepticism and cynicism higher than ever today, the time is right to spark the smoldering resentment; to change the citizens' disenchantment from apathy to action; to give them a sense of empowerment and identifying the key issues and focusing on them; to make voters an effective part of the political system.

The League of Women Voters, Common Cause and interested Neighborhood Boards are planning a Hawaii Citizens Jury for the 1994 Gubernatorial Election. The Citizen Jury process developed by the Minneapolis-based Jefferson Center 15 years ago, has been successfully used in New Jersey and Minnesota Gubernatorial and the Pennsylvania Senatorial elections. Citizen Juries have also evaluated National Health Care and the Federal Budget.

It is a process that incorporates the best elements of the "town meeting" and the "focus groups." William Raspberry of the Washington Post commenting on the Citizens Jury on the Federal Budget wrote: "But if the details of their 'tough choices' proposals are interesting (and well worth the attention of the Clinton Administration), it is the process that I find exciting."

An editorial in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette stated: "[The Citizens Jury] promises a new way for voters to become involved in a meaningful assessment of candidates for major office. And, in a political era dominated by negative ads, TV, sound bites and dwindling voter registration, we need to build citizen involvement every way we can."

Here's how the Citizens Jury system works. 18 citizens will be randomly selected from a scientific telephone survey to create a Jury panel which represent a microcosm of our community in terms of demographics and political affiliations. They will convene at an introductory meeting to discuss the issues in the election and choose three topics on which to hold hearings and evaluate the candidates.

Hearings will be held over two days, when expert witnesses will be called to address the topics and discuss the issues with the jurors. Another day will be spent by the jurors to assimilate the, information they garner and to determine what questions they will pose to the candidate. Candidates will be given the opportunity to appear before the jury to state their positions and respond to jurors' questions. The jury will also examine the candidates' political commercials.

After deliberating, the jury will issue its findings, evaluating the candidates' responses on each of the three topics. The jury will describe and compare the positions of the candidates and evaluate the campaign advertisements relating to these issues. The conclusions will be announced to the public. No endorsement will be made on any candidate.

The League will not be involved in determining the major issues of focus, selecting expert witnesses, formulating questions for the candidates, establishing criteria, selecting of candidates or evaluating responses. We will be acting as facilitators to enable the process to go forward – to provide the public a forum from which they can ask and get answers to issues of concern to them, to provide an educational process for the ordinary citizen by their peers in language they can understand and relate to.

The proposed budget for this project is $100,000. Our aim is to get 50% of the budget pledged by April. We need all of the people-power and financial aid we can get.

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