McEntee: New Utah Voters Guide a must read
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you're a stone-cold political junkie, you can have a lot of fun with the nonpartisan Utah League of Women Voters' Voters Guide.

But even if you're not, you can check out candidates for Utah's federal and state races who, given new district boundaries, could make for dramatic changes in the political landscape. As a bonus, you can also find out who bothered and who didn't to answer the questions the league posed.

For example, questions to gubernatorial hopefuls include education, economic development, air and water quality, health care and immigration.

For lieutenant governor, the state's chief election officer, it's "What will you do to improve Utah's dismal voter turnout?"

Congressional questions include the proper role of corporations in elections, the cost of the military versus the cost of domestic needs and, given the Affordable Care Act, what should Congress do to ensure quality health care for all Americans?

Legislative candidates were quizzed on public education, air quality and bills that demand that the feds turn over nearly all federal lands to the state.

Results were mixed in a number of ways. Only 97 candidates, or 43 percent, of all candidates, across the board wrote back — some of them with a degree of irritation, says Jenn Gonnelly, the league's co-legislative director.

"One candidate said the questions were too hard," she says, "and they also reminded him of a joke question at university finals — 'Explain the universe and give three examples.' "

But that person, and another angered by the questions, sent in answers anyway.

"We gave them five questions that we hoped would give us an idea of who they were," Gonnelly says. "We also tried very hard to make sure the questions weren't leading."

Gov. Gary Herbert's office said it hadn't received the questionnaire and, with a few others, asked if he could respond after the guide was published.

The answer was no, because they would have the advantage of reading what others had said first. That, Gonnelly said, would put the league in an awkward position.

The league did decide against publishing one response because the writer started off by saying it hadn't asked the right questions and thoughtfully supplied the "right" questions and answers.

Others did a little dance by redirecting questions, which Gonnelly calls a classic politician's move.

For example, a question about health care might be answered with "good health depends on a good economy, and let me tell you about the economy."

Overall, though — and I've read every one — the candidates did their best. I noticed that the answers followed party lines, including those of the Libertarian and Constitutional parties.

There also were some interesting no-shows, including Herbert, Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Orrin Hatch.

That alone tells us a bit about the power, if not arrogance, of incumbency — although newcomer Mia Love didn't respond either.

Overall, though, the Voters Guide has made a welcome return to Utah's political scene. It's a valuable online tool for voters and may help push nonvoters to take a look, assess the field and cast ballots.

Given that Utah ranked among the nation's lowest in voter turnout in 2010 — only 33.2 percent of those eligible participated — it might bring more enthusiasm and fewer lonely election judges.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee. —

See the online guide

To read the Voters Guide, go to http://www.lwvutah.org/votersguide/index.html