OUR OPINION: No excuse for doctored 'survey' by pro-life group
For an organization that claims to be all about morality and ethics, Walsh County Pro Life should have known better. The group sent a survey to the legislative candidates in the county's contested races, got the surveys back -- and then changed t...
For an organization that claims to be all about morality and ethics, Walsh County Pro Life should have known better.
The group sent a survey to the legislative candidates in the county's contested races, got the surveys back -- and then changed the answers of two candidates before publicizing the bogus "results."
Where or how could that ever be an honorable move? Maybe on some Bizarro Planet, where the end always justifies the means. But not in Walsh County, USA.
By suggesting that it cares little about fairness and simply wants to get its way, Walsh County Pro Life has hurt its own cause. Politics ain't beanbag, and Americans will put up with all kinds of insults and mudslinging in the course of a campaign. But willful deception is something else again; and traditionally, voters rightly are suspicious of turning power or influence over to those who can't restrain their zeal to win at all costs.
If it hasn't already done so, Walsh County Pro Life should apologize to candidates Gerald Uglem and Curtis Olafson, whose answers to the survey got changed. And an apology to voters for the misrepresentation also would be in line.
As a story in Friday's Herald reported, "Walsh County Pro Life is under fire for surveying four Republican candidates for North Dakota Legislature and then changing some of the answers it received before mailing the results to voters" ("Anti-abortion group alters survey answers," Page A1).
In its defense, Walsh County Pro Life points to a disclaimer on the results sheet that was mailed to voters. The changed answers -- all of which were changed from "Yes" to "No" on certain questions -- had asterisks by them.
And at the bottom of the sheet, an explanation for the asterisks read, "Response shown is based on the candidate's voting record rather than his response (or lack thereof) to the survey question."
Sorry, but that's not good enough. For one thing, it's clear that Walsh County Pro Life already knew the answers it would assign to its out-of-favor candidates before it even sent them the questions. Why waste the candidates' time? Why lead them on, pretending that their answers would be meaningful in some way?
For another, Walsh County Pro Life deceived not only the candidates -- who trusted that their answers at least would be accurately reported -- but also the voters, because the document they got calls itself and looks like a traditional survey. It even has a grid that shows the candidates' supposed answers.
"As an educational service, Walsh County Pro Life has conducted a survey of all the legislative candidates in contested races," the document begins.
"The results of the survey are shown below. ... Clearly in both races, there is a significant difference between the candidates when it comes to their understanding of the right to life."
Well, "clearly," that's right. But only because Walsh County Pro Life changed the answers to get the result it was determined to show.
Walsh County Pro Life has every right to oppose candidates on anti-abortion or any other grounds. But changing candidates' answers and calling what results a "survey" is out of line, and the group should apologize for it.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald