Project Vote Smart is getting the hint - it's election dumb for candidates to fill out.

I caught a little flack a while back for telling candidates not to fill those surveys out from Project Vote Smart.
...My advice would be to all prospective candidates - especially new ones - keep in mind that this might be the only source of information on your stance on a particular issue and the only time it comes up. So why would you throw it out there for dissection and use by your opponent?

There's a reason why participation is going down. Most voters don't give a darn whether or not you fill out an out-of-state survey. The only ones who care are project vote smart who will hound you if you don't.

I like it when my opponents fill them out - sometimes it's great documentation of where they sit on a controversial issue. Have no idea where they sit on abortion or gun control? Well, there it is. But when my candidates get those, my advice is to file it in circular bin #13.
And according to the Associated Press this morning, I'm not the only one telling candidates to just file thirteen those things:
Sixty-one percent of South Dakota’s statewide and legislative candidates refused to answer questions on issues such as budget and taxes, abortion, gun control and the environment.

The group, whose founding board members include Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, sends out the surveys before each general election as a way to help voters understand the positions of candidates.

Rachel Pagliocca, spokeswoman for the group, blames the nationwide lack of participation on campaign consultants and advisers not allowing candidates to speak frankly on issues. She said Project Vote Smart is trying to change that trend.
Read it all here in the Rapid City Journal. A survey from an out-of-state organization with little or no representation among the South Dakota electorate. Well, no kidding that consultant types are going to tell candidates to throw them away.

(BTW, You can see the surveys by following through the South Dakota links here.)

Why do I persist in my opinion? Regardless of the vague statement on their website that "Project Vote Smart does not permit the use of its name or programs in any negative campaign activity, including advertising, debates, and speeches" Let's try to see them enforce that in a local debate. Aside from the fact they'd have to first define what "negative campaign activity" is.

Add to that, they're forcing a compilation of various yes and no statements without any sort of qualification of the statements. For example; One question is "Do you support limiting the following types of contributions to state legislative candidates?" and many candidates are having their answers regarded as "No answer." Why? Well, how do you answer it? In South Dakota its illegal.

Summing it all up, I'd reiterate my previous statements in the matter - this might be the only source of information on your stance on a particular issue and the only time it comes up. So why would you throw it out there for dissection and use by your opponent?

What are they going to do if you don't? Ooooo this organization based a thousand miles away is going to send out a press release? Big deal. If I was questioned by it, the first thing I'd say is that "I respond to plenty of surveys, but I generally sitck with the ones from local media, and not from national organizations whose interests lie elsewhere. Besides, the only survey that really counts in the one conductred by the voters in November." Defused. And it goes away, if it ever comes up in the first place.

So in my opinion, "Project vote smart"? Nah. For candidates, to me it's it's more like project election dumb.

Comments

lexrex said…
pp, politically speaking you may be right. but i think it's shortsighted. a less-informed electorate will translate into an ill-informed legislature.

on another note, i would agree though that there's no need for project vote smart. there is still the south dakota family policy council's voter guide for good information. (full disclosure: i work for the family policy council.)

that guide records incumbents' voting records and then asks challengers how they would've voted. it's quite risky for a challenger not to fill out our guide because it looks like they have something to hide, while their opponent is open about their stances.
Anonymous said…
lex rex, look at rich engels response to your guide on an earlier post. Yes or No, nothing more. That's so simplistic it is a disservice to the voter. No fan of Rich's but some of us are deaper thinkers than evidently the SDFPC thinks we are (or should be).
Anonymous said…
Goodness, we can't have our candidates views on issues out in the open. No, that will never do.It is much better for them to keep them secret and surprise us once they are in Pierre. Lexrex, your obnoxious attempt to monopolize information with your spinfest voter guide is pathetic. The more information voters have from multiple sources the better the resulting goverment. Politcal consultants are only interested in getting their candidate elected, no matter what. PP what were you thiking?
David Newquist said…
God, or Allah, or George W., or whichever deity is the flavor of the month, forbid that candidates ever reveal their stance on issues. Their opponents might be able to actually cite their records, criticize their stances, and propose ideas that actually have thought and analysis behind them.

It is better to wallow in the muck of ad hominem attacks and perfidious strategies than to get down to the business of making a democracy work for the better of the people, rather than the lust for power and privilege.

That anyone suggests that actually taking a stance on issues is a political mistake just shows how far, and possibly irrevocably, we have abandoned the Constitution and adopted George Orwell's depiction of Oceania as the model by which our government is run. Orwell termed a mind-control tactic "Crimestop." It was inculcating into people an instinct to stop before harboring any thoughts that might induce a skeptical or critical attitude. This ability for critical thinking was displaced by the vilification of people said to hold opposing viewpoints, observed each day by Two Minutes of Hate.

Well, Newspeak in his book was not slated to supplant discernment and thought until 2050, but it looks like we are ahead of schedule. I still don't love Big Brother.
mjb said…
It's a campaign, not a court of law. Yes or no is a disservice without understanding the reasoning behind that opinion.

And I'd rather have my poiticians explaining things to me, rather than some special interest group.
Anonymous said…
Newquist - spoken like a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Erin said…
Oh, my, Project Vote Smart turns out to be one of those nasty little special interest groups. It wants to subvert the election process by providing information and working for intelligent, open, and honest elections. We really have to stamp that kind of crap out before it goes too far.
Chris Madsen said…
The problem with any candidate questionaire is that it can only pose questions about abstract ideas in black and white terms. However, when you're sitting in the legislature, or on any other governing board, the issues do not look quite the same as they do on the questionaire.

Sure, I admit I filled some of the surveys out and ignored others when I was running for office and reelection. However, the best policy is either to refuse to fill out any survey or completely answer all of them.

I wanted voters making a decision to vote for me based on what they knew about me and answers I gave them to the questions they asked. A voter who makes decisions based upon a matrix of answers to some survey is, in my humble opinion, a pretty uninformed voter.

Thank goodness South Dakota is still full of voters who want to look candidates in the eye while they shake their hand and make a decision based on something other than campaign literature and answers to surveys.
Anonymous said…
Chris Madsen is right. The survey poses alot of "yes/no" questions on complex issues. And the surveys are not state-specifc, so many of the questions do not make sense in this state or emphasize things that are non-issues here.
Haggs said…
When I was just a regular voter (before getting into political blogging and becoming active in the political process) I used Project Vote Smart to help me decide who to vote for. So did my sister and many of our friends. We thought it was a very handy resource since, as college kids, we never had the time or patience to find information on candidates from multiple sources.

I remember actually being frustrated when I saw a candidate didn't fill out one of the surveys.

Now that I've been following politics closely for six months, I can understand why PP has this opinion. Though it would be nice to live in a world where politicians can be fully open without fear of losing votes or being criticized.
Anonymous said…
"some of us are deaper thinkers than evidently the SDFPC thinks we are"

Hahahaha! Thank God for "deap" thinkers!
Anonymous said…
blogging should be quick and with emotion, not long and thought out w/spell check. Haha, don't take yourself and your posts so serious or you will end up like NOTLA.
Anonymous said…
Just as a FYI

SDFPC's survey DOES post complete answers on their website. The yes or no answer goes on the pamphlet with the essay answers (which are often too long to practically put on the paper version)go on the web site.

I think rich engle overlooked this on his previous blog post(attack).

rich also used the Vote Smart answers to attack another candidate--something that Vote Smart says won't happen if you fill out their survey.

This certainly validates pp's position.

I had never heard of rich before looking at his web site here--I am new to Sioux Falls---His comments about his opponents and the SDFPC survey gave me a clear idea of what a small person he must be. Generally I feel that I should meet someone before making that kind of judgement--but his posts here were very convincing.

He must be one of the deap thinkers.
Anonymous said…
"blogging should be quick and with emotion, not long and thought out w/spell check."


Why, because you said so?
Anonymous said…
Yes, Mr. Smart Police.
lexrex said…
why should challengers get to explain their answers? the incumbents don't get to explain their votes. they get two choices: yes or no -- or they excuse themselves.

sounds simplistic, but it's reality.

would it be fair to allow a challenger to explain why he answered "no" on the abortion ban when the incumbent doesn't get the same chance?

mr. madsen, you are correct that the issues do not always look quite the same as they do on the questionaire. but on the family policy council guide, they do. in fact they are exactly the same.
Anonymous said…
Project vote smart is no partisan and all but those looking to sander one of the only nonbiased source of infomation on people running for office call them biased. Personally I like to choose my candidates by their views on the issues rather than how good they looked in their campaign ads.

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