Messing with Montana: Get-out-the-Vote Experiment Raises Ethics Questions

The New West

by Melissa R. Michelson

Today, the Internet exploded with news about and reactions to a get-out-the-vote field experiment fielded by three political science professors that may have broken Montana state law and, at a minimum, called into question the ethics of conducting experiments that might impact election results. No stranger to such controversy myself—a postage experiment I conducted with some colleagues in November 2010 (Michelson et al 2012) raised the ire of one losing candidate and generated some unpleasant media coverage—I am sympathetic to the idea that the researchers meant no harm. But harm has indeed been done, to the experiments subfield and to the discipline more broadly, if not to the people of Montana.

First, let’s review the facts. Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden, Political Science professors and fellows at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, along with Dartmouth Political Scientist Kyle Dropp, obtained $250,000 from the William and Flora…

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How I Changed My Name

Stickler.

We are familiar with it by now, on a first name basis, in fact: “The cancer” “Cam has cancer” “the cancer thing.”  Cam texts me after an appointment and refers to “my cancer”, like it was some sort of pet. A black slimy pet with too many fingers, that doesn’t do anything but sit in the corner and watch us while we eat and sleep. If we’re going to talk about names this is probably the first thing you should know.

Back when the cancer was just a shadow, an irregular mass on a blurry radiology picture, we met with Sarah, the priest who married us this summer. We talked around money, wills, living situations, kids, whether or not we’d take our family to church. We didn’t tell her about the–well, the not-cancer, the lesion, whatever it is. Why worry people, we kept saying to each other, if it’s going…

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