Most Nevada candidates pass on issues questionnaire
(AP) – A nonpartisan group tired by being snubbed by political incumbents and major party candidates who don’t respond to its pre-election survey is taking a new tact to educate voters on their positions.
Project Vote Smart, a Montana-based organization, is launching “VoteEasy,” a website that analyzes voting records and public statements to infer where an incumbent or candidate stands on a wide range of policy issues.
So far information is available on congressional candidates from Nevada and eight other states – Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. Carly Griffin, Project Vote Smart spokeswoman, said Wednesday that Utah and New Jersey will be added by Sept. 10, and information on candidates from all states will be available before Election Day.
Politicians who disagree with the group’s assessment of their policy positions are invited to correct the information, Griffin said.
On the website, http://www.voteeasy.org, a voter types in their ZIP code to bring up U.S. House and Senate candidates who will appear on their ballot. On the screen, candidate pictures appear on campaign yard signs.
From there, voters click on 12 issue tabs, ranging from abortion and Afghanistan to crime, the economy, Social Security and taxes. Depending on the voter’s own view, the yard signs recede to the background or advance to the front of the screen, depending on how well a candidate’s position matches their own.
This year, 65 percent of Nevada’s congressional candidates, including all incumbents, didn’t respond to the organization’s “political courage test,” designed to tell voters where they stand on issues.
They weren’t alone.
Neither major party candidate in Nevada’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval, responded to the questionnaire. The other five independents or minor party candidates, did, however.
And of those running for the state Senate or Assembly, only 22 participated, while 102 refused, and three others were listed as “pending.”
Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said there are many reasons why candidates are wary of such tests or surveys.
“One problem is that the questions are often posed in ways that don’t allow for any nuance,” he said. When it comes to complex issues, “rarely are political choices so simple.”
And with no ability to explain a position, answers can be taken out of context by an opposing candidate and blasted in campaign ads or robo-calls, Herzik said.
On the other hand, minor party candidates often relish such tests because it’s a way to get their often unconventional ideas across to voters.
“They would welcome any attention, so an outrageous answer getting attacked by someone, or for that matter anyone, is welcomed,” Herzik said.
“Candidates with a more realistic chance are less willing to wade into the biased question waters of tests and surveys,” he said.
Project Vote Smart conducted the test for presidential, congressional and gubernatorial candidates since 1992, and extended it to state legislative candidates in 1996.