Innovative voter decision guide: the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

While at APSA, I ran into a friend and former colleague, Scott Page, who is at the University of Michigan. Scott’s written a great new book on diversity that should be out soon, and he is also an expert scholar in the area of complexity. While we were talking about his work on diversity and complexity, Scott handed me a fantastic booklet that he put together, “A Decision-Making Guide To The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.”

What Scott (and co-author Elizabeth Suhay) are trying to do in this innovative decision-making guide is to help Michigan voters work their way through the complexity of the upcoming ballot measure (like one that passed about a decade ago in California), the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative”, that would block state and local governments in Michigan from developing and implementing policies that allow attributes like race or ethnicity, gender, or national origin, to be used as criteria in government programs or policies.

The decision-making guide is innovative, as in the final set of chapters it breaks down the Michigan initiative into a variety of dimensions, and it tries to help guide voters through the development of their preferences on each dimension. It then seeks to help voters aggregate their opinions across dimensions, to help them decide whether in the final analysis they should support or oppose this initiative.

I found this to be a very interesting way to try to help voters wade through a complex and multidimensional issue, and one that might be useful to emulate in other states and for other complex ballot initiatives.