msnbc.com
updated 1/12/2004 3:39:20 PM ET 2004-01-12T20:39:20

Three of the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls, including front-runner Howard Dean, and President Bush have been branded as "refusing to provide voters with information" by the citizens' group Project Vote Smart.

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In addition to Dean, the former Vermont governor, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., also failed the organization's test. 

Billed as the 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test, the project sought over a 12-week period to get candidates "demonstrate a good faith effort to provide voters with your inclinations on the issues you will most likely face on the citizens' behalf."

"Designed by over 100 political scientists, prominent political leaders and journalists, the test simply asks the candidate to say 'yes,' and make a modest demonstration of that willingness by answering a few questions that polls demonstrate are of real concern to citizens, and likely to be dealt with by the candidate if elected," according to a release from Project Vote Smart.

Refusal is only way to fail test
According to the release, "the only way a candidate can fail the test is to say 'no' or refuse to respond to any of the voters’ issue specific questions no matter who is asking them to do so."

The project was funded by Project Vote Smart and the Knight, Ford, and Revson Foundations. It "systematically approached presidential candidates with 23 different documented requests from 18 different news organizations as well as political leaders of both parties from the Project’s Board to provide essential issue information to voters.

"The questions cover 17 different issue areas. Candidates may leave 30% unanswered, answer any question in their own words, and responses are not required to be germane. The Project only looks for a candidate’s willingness to consider the public inquiry and make some utterance, any kind of utterance, in response to that inquiry."

Project Vote Smart is a non-profit, non-partisan group that aims to increase voters' awareness of the issues and candidates' positions on them.

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