Republican 9th District Chairman Larry Shickles sent a letter this week to 9th District Democratic Chairman Mike Jones suggesting Baron Hill, Mike Sodrel and Eric Schansberg be hooked up to polygraph machines during their Oct. 21 debate.

Sodrel and Schansberg are challenging the incumbent Hill for Indiana's 9th Congressional District seat.

The idea was quickly shot down. Jones called the idea "bizarre" and Alan Johnson, dean of Vincennes University's Jasper Campus where the debate is to be held, dismissed the notion saying, "we are not inviting negotiations from the candidates," to alter the format of the debate.

But, it still left the question; "What if they did hook the candidates up to the machines?"

"Scientific research indicates that the results of polygraph tests administered by professionally trained polygraph examiners using modern polygraphs are virtually 100 percent reliable," said Alexander Volyk, a polygraph examiner with the Indiana Polygraph Institute.

Could polygraph testing change the format of the time honored tradition of the great political debate where candidates square off on the issues without being able to consult with campaign staffers between question and answer?

Does the modern polygraph give us the opportunity to know without a doubt our elected officials are telling the truth?

Apparently not.

"You can't do it in a debate format," said Kari Bumbleburg, a polygraph sales associate with the Lafayette Instrument Company. "They (the candidates) won't be able to elaborate."

The problem with using a polygraph during a debate doesn't boil down to an issue of if a polygraph is accurate. The problem arises, since polygraph examinations become inconclusive when they are not performed in a controlled environment.

"The polygraph is not useful in a public setting. It needs to be conducted in a private room with just the examiner and examinee. The distraction of an audience, a moderator and the other candidates would render any polygraph result invalid, in my opinion," said Bumbleburg.

According to Bumbleburg, polygraph examinations need to be conducted with questions that can only be responded to with a "yes" or a "no." This would strictly limit the pool of debate questions and would not provide candidates with a chance to explain their positions on the issues, further restricting the usefulness of incorporating a polygraph test into a typical debate format.

Lafayette Instrument, based in Lafayette, Ind., has been a world leader in polygraph manufacturing for more than 60 years. They are one of four companies world-wide who make the instruments that are mostly sold to government and law enforcement agencies.