Catholic conference assembles voter guide - Catholic Courier

Catholic conference assembles voter guide

The New York State Catholic Conference recently compiled a guide to help the state’s Catholics make informed choices in November’s elections. The voter guide may be found on the conference’s Web site, www.nyscatholic.org.

More than 100 candidates for elected state offices — including the two major-party candidates for governor — responded to a survey sent out in mid-September by the Catholic conference, which is the public-policy arm of New York’s eight bishops. The 10-question survey asked candidates to state their positions on 10 issues related to the more than 60 items on the conference’s agenda.

Candidates’ responses were not graded or scored, but were entered into a spreadsheet, which shows how they compare against those of their opponents and the positions of the Catholic Church.

“This is an attempt by the state’s bishops to inform and educate the Catholic electorate on many issues of concern to the church, without endorsing any particular candidates,” conference Executive Director Richard Barnes said in a statement.

The conference sent surveys — 412 in all — to candidates running for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, the state Senate and the state Assembly. Among the issues addressed by the questionnaire were education tax credits, the death penalty, the cloning of human embryos, taxpayer funding of abortion and labor rights for migrant farm workers.

Although the survey focuses on 10 distinct issues, respect for the inherent dignity of every human life is at the heart of each issue, Barnes wrote in a cover letter to the candidates.

The Catholic conference’s Web site contains links to a spreadsheet that presents the positions of all 110 respondents. The site also contains a link to another spreadsheet that includes responses only from candidates in races relevant to voters within the Diocese of Rochester.

Besides the major-party candidates for governor, Republican John J. Faso and Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the conference received survey responses from such hopefuls as the Libertarian candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, and the Republican candidate for comptroller. Nine local candidates for state Assembly seats also responded, as did five local candidates for state Senate seats.

The conference has not presented a voter guide since the late 1980s, but this effort is a natural outgrowth of the conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network, according to Dennis Poust, communications director for the conference. Members of this network, founded in 2003, keep themselves informed about current and pending legislation, and inform their elected representatives of their positions as Catholics.

“This is somewhat of an experiment,” Poust said. “If Catholic voters find it helpful in informing their consciences, we will continue to do it in the future.”

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