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Primary, GMO will be reviewed by citizen panels

Second official round; experiment dates back to 2008.


Citizen panels will review statewide ballot measures that propose to require labeling of genetically modified foods and change Oregon’s primary election.

The panels, each with 24 citizens representing all parts of Oregon, will meet Aug. 17-20 and Aug. 21-24 at the Salem Convention Center.

Each panel will review one measure. A spokeswoman for Healthy Democracy, the nonprofit that funds and manages the reviews, said the order of consideration has not been determined yet.

Officials announced Tuesday that the primary-election measure has qualified for the Nov. 4 general election. I

Instead of registered voters within the Democratic and Republican parties choosing their nominees, as has been the case since Oregon began primary elections more than a century ago, the measure would allow the top two finishers to advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The GMO measure is awaiting qualification.

This is the second official round for the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which lawmakers created in 2011 after test runs and pilot projects in 2008 and 2010.

The issues considered by panels in 2012 were ballot measures to allow private casinos and earmark rebates of corporate income taxes for public schools.

The panels will hear from advocates and opponents of the measures, experts and others — and can ask their own questions — before they draw up statements of facts and arguments for and against measures.

Those closing statements and arguments are presented to the public on the final day. They also are reproduced in the state’s official voters pamphlet and online guide, which also carry paid arguments and brief summaries and fiscal analyses.

“Everyday Oregonians will come together, thoughtfully consider these issues and help cut through the advertisements and sound bites to deliver fact-based information to their fellow voters,” says Jerry Hudson, chairman of the commission and former president of Willamette University.

This year, advocates and opponents can make their cases not only in person or in writing, but also through videoconferencing.

Independent research has determined that about half the voters using the official guides do read the statements and arguments prepared by the panels and consider them as they decide how to vote.

“Oregonians are looking for trustworthy information when they go to vote,” says Tyrone Reitman, executive director of Healthy Democracy.

peterwong@PortlandTribune.com

(503) 385-4899

twitter.com/capitolwong