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New Accountability Tools Help Scrutinize Legislative Candidates

SOURCE: Project Vote Smart
Only 16 percent of Maryland’s state legislative primary candidates were willing to tell citizens their positions on the issues.
Great Divide Ranch, MT--Project Vote Smart has released two important tools to help voters in Maryland decide who should represent them in Washington, DC and Annapolis.

The first is the National Political Awareness Test, which has measured the willingness of the state’s primary candidates to tell citizens how they may handle top issues if elected. Conducted over the last four weeks, the test found that only 16 percent of Maryland’s state legislative primary candidates said “Yes” when asked: “Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?”

The rest of the primary candidates refused to answer questions on these issues even when asked to do so not only by Project Vote Smart staff, but also by prominent leaders of both political parties, including John McCain, Michael Dukakis, Bill Frenzel and Geraldine Ferraro.

“These candidates are vying for some of the most important jobs in this country but still are unwilling to respond to the very people they are trying to represent,” said Adelaide Kimball, a senior advisor to the Project, in a prepared statement to the media. Kimball said that the only way a candidate can fail the test is by refusing to answer issue questions.

Project Vote Smart tests each candidate for president, Congress, governor, and state legislature with the National Political Awareness Test each election year. The results of the test are available on the Project Vote Smart website ( and over the toll-free Voter’s Research Hotline (1-888-VOTE-SMART). All Maryland general election candidates will be tested again from September 20th to October 18th.

The second tool for accountability is the Project’s new state legislative key votes program, which allows citizens to track and monitor the job performances of their own state representatives. Voting records of each member of the Maryland state legislature have been posted on the Project’s web site and categorized by issue area, offering voters a clear way to find out where legislators stand on important issues in the state.

The program was created and modeled after the Project’s congressional voting records, and was instituted, according to Project officials, after years of pleading from frustrated citizens who had no place to go to find out how they were being represented at the state level. Members of the Maryland state legislature wield enormous power over the daily lives of their constituents and yet voters seem to know less about them than they do about their representatives in Congress. With this program, Maryland voters can see how each legislator has voted on key bills.

For each key vote, Project Vote Smart provides a title, summaries, floor votes, and a direct link to the full text of the bill. Voters have the option of searching by bill number or category. Among the votes identified as key pieces of legislation from the January through May of the 2005-2006 legislative session are:

HB 391Minimum Wage Increase
SB 790 Health Care for Large Companies
SB 320Emergency Goods & Services Price Restriction Bill
SB 293Public Charter School Program Reform Bill
HB 1Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2006

All citizens need to know to do this research is their zip code, and the Project’s programs can pull up their own candidates and representatives, with campaign finance data, biographical information, voting records, issue positions, special interest group ratings, and public statements, as well as information on Maryland’s primaries and general election.
Project Vote Smart is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization founded by national leaders such as former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. It is funded entirely through foundation grants and the individual contributions of 36,000 members. Project Vote Smart does not support or oppose any issue or candidate and does not accept contributions from any organization that does.

For more information, call 406-859-8683.

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This story was published on September 9, 2006.