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As if our weary souls hadn’t been bombarded thoroughly enough by nearly continuous election advertising, now the push polls have begun.

Reports of automated callers slinging dirt thinly veiled as poll questions at U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester have come pouring in from around the state in recent days. Common Sense 2006, a conservative Ohio group, is the main propagator of the calls, which start out by asking those unfortunate enough to answer the phone whether they plan to vote before progressing to such astute questions as: “Do you believe that activist judges that push homosexual marriage and create new rights like sodomy and abortion need to be more tightly controlled by Congress?” The widespread net cast by the callers is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that even Jason Klindt, spokesman for Sen. Conrad Burns’ campaign, told the Independent he received a Common Sense 2006 call on his cell phone (though he declined to report his answers to their questions). But other push poll efforts are afoot, too. One reader received a similar push poll and traced the call to Virginia’s Family Foundation, which later told the Independent it was indeed sponsoring such calls, but not in Montana, and thus dubbed our receipt of them “bizarre” before telling us they would look into the matter. And in Ravalli County, there have been numerous reports of push polls regarding a local ballot issue that would cap retail store size (i.e., Wal-Mart), where callers who refuse to identify themselves inquire whether voters favor the “ordinance limiting consumer choice.” Then there are the robo-calls, automated messages urging support for Republican candidates, that citizens including Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald have reported receiving recently.

Automated calls, all of which are illegal in Montana according to Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth, have been predictably condemned by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Jim Farrell, executive director for the Montana Democrats, said he was preparing official complaints on both the push polls and robo-calls.

Regardless, we’ve apparently caught the push poll fever that seems to be making the rounds, and we’d like to offer up a push poll question of our own. Pose it to the politicos harassing your home: Would you hire robots to annoy me with your tired scare tactics if you could gauge the inverse relationship between your illegal efforts and my commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution?

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