Proposed law aims to give voters neutral info on ballot questions

Panel would assess a ballot question after hearing from supporters, opponents and policy experts

BOSTON (WWLP) – Some Massachusetts residents are asking lawmakers to support a bill that would create a Citizens Initiative Review Commission to provide voters with neutral information on ballot questions.

Here’s how it works: 2-3 residents are randomly selected from each congressional district. They come together as a panel of 18-24 people that assesses a ballot question after hearing from supporters, opponents and policy experts. The panel then releases an explanation of the measure and their findings to voters.

Critics question if it is necessary to have a review panel as there are many places voters can already get ballot information, including state released pamphlets and websites. However, State Senator Jason Lewis told 22News that sometimes there can be too much information for voters to digest.

“You get a lot of arguments and facts and statistics that are in conflict with each other,” Lewis explained, “because you hear one thing from somebody who supports the ballot question and sometimes you hear just the opposite thing from someone who is opposed to it.”

The state ran a pilot program during the last election that reviewed ballot Question 4 on the legalization of recreational marijuana. George Kerxhalli, who was in the pilot program, explained that “Many of the people I’m familiar with, to include myself, when it came voting time, you read the pamphlet, maybe a day or two before, you found it very confusing and the information misleading.”

If the bill is passed, western Massachusetts would get 4-6 representatives on the review panel.