I was privileged to get to visit with Family Council President Jerry Cox about the group’s Voter’s Guide. The Council has been producing the guide for every primary and general election since 1990. It is a valuable resource to Arkansas voters and you can check it out here.
To begin the interview, I asked Mr. Cox to share the goals & general purpose of the guide.
The primary purpose of the voter’s guide is to help all Arkansans cast a wise and informed vote. One secondary purpose of the voter’s guide is to change voter behavior from treating elections like a high school popularity contest to helping them focus on issues and voting for candidates based on their stand on those issues.
I view candidates as job applicants. They’re applying for the job of state representative, governor, or U.S. Senator. As voters, we’re the ones doing the hiring. Our candidate survey is like a job interview. As long as our questions are appropriate, I expect every candidate to answer them. How else are voters supposed to know who to hire?
But getting candidates to tell you where they stand on family issues isn’t as easy as you might think. Apparently Family Council spends a lot of time just trying to get candidates to complete the survey.
We usually make at least 10 attempts to contact candidates who do not complete the survey. This includes at least 3 letters, including one sent by certified mail, 3 e-mails, at least 3, sometimes 6 phone calls from our staff, and phone calls from citizens on our mailing list who vote in the candidate’s area of the state.
Surveys are still coming in, but so far, about 60% of candidates with opposition in the May primary have completed our survey. All but 2 Republicans have completed the survey and about 40% of Democrats have completed it.
And it’s not just that they’re busy or that their inboxes are full. Many candidates simply refuse to fill out the survey, Cox says:
In my opinion, candidates do not “fail” to complete the survey. They refuse to complete it. Of course it is their right to do so.
Cox added that candidates who say “no” to the survey outright are not contacted further. However, candidates that are ‘undecided’ will be contacted at a minimum of 9 times and perhaps as many as 15 times. Cox said sometimes a member of his staff will even physically hand the survey to a candidate, in hopes that they will fill it out.
I asked Cox if most candidates who do not reply give any response at all or if they just ignore the group’s requests. He supplied a list of the most commonly used excuses:
The most common answer is “I’ll take a look at it.”
The next most common answer is “I don’t fill out surveys.”
From there, the answers get more interesting: “I had to build a fence.”
“We had a tornado.”
“My opponent will use the survey against me.”
“My campaign manager told me not to fill it out.”
“I don’t have time.”
“If they don’t have me on record, they can’t use it against me.”
Of course we, the general public, all know that’s what these candidates are thinking when they refuse the survey, but it was a little surprising to hear that candidates actually admit that they do not want to take stances on issues.
Cox added that, as a general rule, candidates who find the survey beneficial to their election chances will fill it out, and those who perceive it to be harmful to their chances will not.
To conclude, I asked Mr. Cox to share one bit of information that our great readers at The Arkansas Patriot needed to know:
ArkansasVotersGuide.com is one of the best sources of non-partisan information on where Arkansas candidates stand on social, moral, and economic issues
Voters can find a full list of the candidates that have not completed the survey here. The guide for this year’s primary election will launch next week, April 18th.
Thanks again to Mr. Cox for his time & all of the good work the folks at Family Council do.