Did a Research Project Cross Line Into Election Advocacy?

October 24, 2014

State officials in Montana and administrators at Stanford University are looking into whether a project by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth College may have inappropriately deceived voters, the Associated Press reported. Some voters in Montana received a flyer in the mail this week -- which looked to many like official election material because it contained the state seal -- that rated judicial candidates on a scale of "more liberal" to "more conservative."

The mailer was sent by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth as part of an experiment of whether residents are more likely to vote if they have more information about candidates. The AP article quotes Montana's secretary of state, Linda McCullough, as saying she believes the researchers "actually crossed the line from research into influencing voters." A spokeswoman for Stanford, Lisa Lapin, told the news service: "We are taking this very seriously.... We sincerely apologize to those voters and we apologize to the secretary of state for the confusion."

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