By Joe Carbonari
The bogus election mailers sent out to perhaps 100,000 Montanans is a classic in foot-shooting. Unfortunately it is of more importance for its disservice to democracy.
If we are to be voluntarily cooperative as a free society, we must believe in it and it must work. At present we have gridlock and seeming incompetence … and now close experience with deception near the polls.
The “researchers” probably had it right. They will likely find that their turnout somewhat increased and that the overall vote for non-partisan judgeships will became much more clearly partisan in practice.
In traditionally liberal precincts this should produce some extra liberal votes, as most people don’t know much about the judicial candidates, and this information would be helpful in directing their vote, the same in the more conservative precincts and minds. It will be interesting to see.
As with “dark” money, this manipulation of our voting process is less than ethical and undermines our society. In whom can we trust? How can we know?
The “researchers” and their abettors are seemingly “tone deaf.” The likelihood is that their action will backfire. Our nonpartisan bias will be strengthened, and our checks on manipulation will be more vigilant. Perhaps fewer mailers will go out. One can hope.
Pick your experts carefully. They should understand human nature and respect it.
By Tim Baldwin
We have a compelling interest to prevent corruption in our political process and institutions. Montana laws attempt to do this, in part, by limiting the money a person can contribute to a candidate and prohibiting fraudulent or misrepresentative political promotion, especially given the reality that impactful promotions can be produced and distributed mostly, if not exclusively, by millionaire entities, not individual voters.
Only days before Election Day, we learn that Stanford and Dartmouth Universities mailed about 100,000 letters to Montanans to, some claim, skew voter turnout in favor of the so-called “conservative” Montana Supreme Court candidates. Some claim that these letters were disguised as an objective analysis of each candidate and that the individuals behind them belong to conservative “think tanks.” Naturally, accusations have arisen.
Regardless of what comes of these letters, this is certain: our states and nation must enforce laws that punish people who attempt to influence voters through subterfuge and deceit. Simultaneously, we should look at how lobbyists and foreign interests control our capitals through money, bribes, and power dealing more than the people’s will and Constitution. We should study how we can discourage the corruptive element of human nature in politics. We have anti-trust laws that attempt to prevent commercial corruption. Certainly political corruption is vastly more important.
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