LEGISLATION AIMED TO END DECEPTIVE “PUSH-POLLS” IN MAINE IS UP FOR DEBATE

Posted: May 05, 2011 | News Items, Senator Hill, Veterans and Legal Affairs

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is set to weigh in

 AUGUSTA – Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) presented a bill last week that would outlaw the increasingly deceptive practice of electoral push-polling.

A push-poll is a technique used by some political campaigns in which an individual or group attempts to influence a voter’s view about a candidate while claiming to be conducting a legitimate poll. The callers often present false or misleading claims and attempt to make their claims more credible by veiling the questions as a campaign poll.

This controversial practice became a problem in the November 2010 Maine general election as the Maine Ethic’s Commission fielded many complaints on the issue.

“Maine has long been a state whose political campaigns have been defined by hard work and civil discourse,” said Senator Hill. “Unfortunately the increasingly popular practice of push-polling is nothing more than a thinly veiled smear campaign and I don’t think the people of Maine approve of this type of activity,” Hill added.

During her testimony, Senator Hill cited voter opposition in her race for the State Senate as an example of how push polling can be dishonest. Last fall, a series of calls were made to residents in Senate District 1 that attempted to distort then-Representative Hill’s record and when then the callers were asked to identify themselves they refused to do so. These calls upset a number of York County residents who reported that they had received phone calls from an unknown group claiming to be a polling firm; but rather than polling they attempted to influence the person’s vote. 

As proposed to members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Senator Hill’s legislation (LD 1254) would close a loophole in the current election law by changing the definition of push-polling so that polling firms seeking to avoid the label of “push-poll” would have to collect “significant survey results” as defined by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics. The bill also increases the fine for failing to register a push-poll from $500 to up to $10,000.

“The voters of Maine deserve better when it comes to the information they receive on candidates,” said Senator Hill. “It is totally alarming that current law allows any group to call voters and spread false and misleading information with almost no consequences.”

Senator Hill added, “My bill would restore more integrity to Maine elections and help to increase voter confidence of the source of information purported.”