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Americans Elect Mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders on Priorities and on Same-Sex Marriage

Americans Elect doesn’t call it a ratings system or a “National Match” anymore, but the information that constituted its ratings for hundreds of possible presidential candidates is still there. That rating information is still being used to characterize presidential candidates as the initial vote to pick its presidential nominee creeps ever closer, now just 124 days away. And that information is still plagued with error:

  • A new “priorities” ranking of presidential contenders flatly contradicts its old “ratings” ranking on various subjects.
  • Despite placing lower than Gary Johnson in its own ratings system, Jon Huntsman received a preferred ranked spot on Americans Elect’s primary ranking page, while Johnson was placed off that primary page.
  • The issue ratings of Barack Obama incorrectly score his positions on the economy, education and the environment, resulting in a lower ranking score than he would otherwise have achieved.
  • The issue ratings of Buddy Roemer bizarrely assign him “Education” as his highest-priority issue, when Education is the issue Roemer has been least likely to discuss as a presidential candidate. Follow Americans Elect links to supposed documentation of Roemer’s other positions and you’ll find that they actually don’t document those positions.

To add to the list of factual and ranking errors in the Americans Elect system, this morning I ran across the Americans Elect page that is used to characterize the record and positions of Senator Bernard Sanders (he prefers to be called “Bernie”).

What you’ll notice first on that page is that Bernie Sanders is reported to hold “Social Issues” as his “Highest Priority”:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is listed by Americans Elect as having his Highest Priority be Social Issues

But a listing of Bernie Sanders’ 85 newsroom items since September 1 of this year reveals only 1 that has to do with “Social Issues,” that being a discussion of AIDS. Look at the topics there: clearly, Bernie Sanders’ top three priorities in his communications as a Senator have been the economy, government reform and the environment. Social Issues just don’t come close.

Let’s not stop there. Let’s look at the bills Bernie Sanders has introduced in the 112th Congress. There are 40 bills, resolutions and amendments as of today, 26 of which have text allowing the bills to be characterized. They break down as follows:

1 Agriculture
1 Budget
1 Constitution
6 Education
4 Environment
3 Health Care
1 Military
1 Postal Services
1 “Social Issues” (1 HIV)
3 Social Security
1 Veterans

You could say that education is a “Social Issue,” but actually “Education” is coded as a separate category in the Americans Elect priorities system. Social Issues are not Bernie Sanders’ legislative priority in legislation or communication. It’s just not an accurate characterization of Bernie Sanders.

But if we’re going to harp on “Social Issues,” let’s consider what Americans Elect says Bernie Sanders’ position is on “Social Issues:

Americans Elect says Bernie Sanders doesn't support same-sex marriage, but rather civil unions.  Bollocks!

What’s the basis for Americans Elect to say that Bernie Sanders thinks “Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not to marry in the traditional sense”? Let’s click through on that link to see the “explanation by ‘On the Issues’”, the group Americans Elect contracted with to generate the rating of Bernie Sanders:

On The Issues explanation for its assignation of an position to Bernie Sanders on behalf of Americans Elect, which makes no sense

Read those items supposedly documenting Sanders’ position. You should notice that 4 out of 5 of them have nothing to do with same-sex marriage. One is on employment discrimination, one is on discrimination in the military, one is on discrimination in the schools, and one is adoption by gay couples. Only 1 of the 5 items has to do with same-sex marriage, and in that item Bernie Sanders is voting against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That’s an action in support of same-sex marriage, not an action opposing it or trying to put civil unions in same-sex marriage’s place. There’s not one documented item to support Americans Elect’s declaration that Bernie Sanders is a civil-unions-not-same-sex-marriage kind of politician.

By the way, if you click through on that final item you’ll finally see that the vote in question occurred in 2004, a full 7 years ago. That’s pretty darned dated, and needlessly so. Bernie Sanders is very open in his current position, a full-throated support for same-sex marriage rights. There’s two years ago, when Amy Goodman asked Sanders point-blank “Do you support same-sex marriage?” and Sanders replied with one word: “Yes.” Or, even more recently, you could look up the current list of cosponsors for S. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 which repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and enables federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Senator Bernie Sanders is a cosponsor.

On his priorities and on his position regarding same-sex marriage, Americans Elect gets Bernie Sanders wrong. Keep this in mind as this corporation tells you it’s got all the details ready to run the nation’s first all-online privatized presidential nomination.

3 comments to Americans Elect Mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders on Priorities and on Same-Sex Marriage

  • Hooligan

    AE is constructing caricatures of people, putting words in their mouths, without even talking to them? And the way they represent people is as well thought out as the rest of the copy on their site. They have reinvented Astroturf.

  • I appreciate all the work you do on this Mr. Cook. I’ve written before and fully intend to participate in AE but what you do HAS to be good for that organization when you point out flaws and weaknesses. There’s no excuse for mischaracterizing a candidate’s main issues–why not let THEM write their own profile?

  • vtratrisk

    I watched the Charlie Rose interview and came away interested in AE concept. They say they’re non-partisan many times, however compiling profiles and positions on individuals (Sanders) and posting them seems ripe for introducing bias and inaccuracies at best. They have no business in codifying, summarizing or characterizing any potential candidate.
    If they have so much faith in the general electorate, then let the US voters decide.

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