For more than a century, Oregon has led the country in direct democracy, with the state’s voters confronting more initiatives than other Americans. In recent years, Oregon has conducted a thorough debate over the process, and taken historic steps to build a citizen-based infrastructure for direct democracy.
The rest of the world is taking notice. As Californians struggle to redesign their own century-old direct democracy, and as the European Union develops a brand new initiative process, people around the world are studying the Oregon example, seeking lessons about what works, and what doesn’t, in citizen legislation.
This September 2011 event brought together a wide range of experts from Europe and the United States on participatory direct democracy. The day’s events — a major component of an extensive series in California, Oregon, and Arizona — were sponsored and co-presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland, the nation with an initiative and referendum system that provided an influential model for American reformers in the early 20th century.
Panelists dug into the challenges of making direct democracy work better, in and beyond Oregon, and asked: What can Oregon learn from the world to improve its initiative and referendum? And what can the world learn from Oregon?
This day-long gathering was sponsored by the Consulate General of Switzerland, the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, Democracy International, the New America Foundation, Zocalo Public Square, Healthy Democracy Oregon, and Lewis & Clark University.