Citizen Panel with Rep. Malinowski: Moving Past Gridlock

At a recent Citizen Panel in New Jersey’s seventh district, voters discussed ideas for electoral reform with their Representative in Congress.

March 29, 2020

Last month, just before we all pressed pause on group gatherings, 41 voters from New Jersey’s seventh congressional district devoted their Saturday afternoon to an in-depth conversation about key election reform issues facing Americans today: campaign finance rules, gerrymandering, and lobbying.

Our friends at Voice of the People unveiled the results of a 478-person survey conducted in the district which showed broad agreement on the issues, including how to address the role of money in elections. Rep. Tom Malinowski, who represents the seventh district in Washington, joined us to offer his insight into how big financial interests influence politics and policy, and to share his personal experience with both the positive and negative impacts of restrictions on lobbying. PBS Channel 39 captured the event for other voters to see from home.

 

 

Additional media coverage:

  PBS 39 - Malinowski Coverage

 

If you’re not familiar with Citizen Panels yet, here’s how they work:

  • Voice of the People fields a specially designed survey, called a policymaking simulation, to a representative sample of voters in a congressional district.
  • The simulation gives participants information on one key set of issues facing Congress, such as health care, immigration, or election reform.
  • Next, the simulation gives participants arguments for and against basic policy choices. Participants are asked whether or not they find one or both arguments persuasive (more often than not, they find both somewhat persuasive).
  • Participants then must choose among different options, much in the same way as their representatives in Congress must choose.
  • All participants in the survey are invited to attend a session with Voice of the People and their representative. Voice of the People presents the results of the survey for the district, compares the district results to national results, and everyone in attendance discusses the issues with their representative.

What Citizen Panel participants tell us over and over again is that when they go through the policymaking simulation and then have the chance to discuss it with their neighbors and congressional representative, they gain a better understanding of the issues at hand. Citizen Panel attendees may not agree on everything, but it turns out that regardless of party affiliation, they agree more often than not.  They also make new connections and feel empowered and motivated to start building common ground in their communities.

We have always believed that voters are far less polarized than politicians, and we’ll continue working with Voice of the People to host Citizen Panels in districts across the country, finding more common ground on issues that really matter. People from across the political spectrum want to sit down together for an informed dialogue, and many members of Congress want to listen and share their perspectives. To make progress as a nation, Americans must move past our state of gridlock. Finding common ground is the first step.

To learn more about Citizen Panels or help organize an event in your district, please contact our team at info@commongroundsolutions.org.