EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether angry or hopeful, your ballot speaks for you. We’re here to help

Les Zaitz, Salem Reporter editor (Robert Quick photo)

The scenes around the country the past few days have been remarkable when it comes to voting.

Most states don’t have the convenience of Oregon’s vote-by-mail.

So, you’ve seen photos and videos of determined voters standing in line to vote. For hours.

They will not be deterred.

In some counties across the country, early voting is shattering all records.

 We’ll see how that intensity holds up in Oregon as we get to the closing wire on the 2020 election.

That ballot is a powerful tool for any individual registered to vote.

Angry about the direction of Oregon? The country? Your ballot speaks to that anger.

Are you hopeful? Do you think matters can improve with the right people in office? Your vote can spark that change.

At Salem Reporter, we’re doing all we can with a small but tactical team of reporters to get you what you need to know.

We have reported and will continue to share with you key information, such as the kind of mistakes you can make that get your ballot pulled out of the count. Our reporters will explain exactly how votes are counted in Marion and Polk counties. We’re preparing reports on how those votes are secured from fraud. And, on a more somber note, we’ll report for what’s likely to happen election night as results roll in – and how government authorities are preparing for several scenarios.

In all my years covering politics and elections, I’ve never sensed one so susceptible to chaos. Prepare yourselves to wait days to find out who wins the White House. I really urge readers not to succumb to cable television hype or campaign claims. Wait for the facts – the numbers that are known, not guessed or projected.

 This election season, our reporting on candidates has been tightly focused. That work is driven in part by what you, our readers and supporters, told us you wanted. Reporters Jake Thomas and Saphara Harrell have been doing the hard work of profiling major party candidates who want your vote and the authority to wield government power.

Readers told us they weren’t interested in generalities. You want candidates to be specific.

That’s proven easier to ask for than to deliver.

Most politicians, of course, are adept at manipulation. They will say what they think will win them votes. That’s sensible if frustrating. But they also sometimes work pretty hard to avoid being pinned down.

That’s what Jake and Saphara have found in interviews of candidates. You want to fix homelessness, Mr. or Ms. Candidate? What, exactly, would you do? Despite careful and persistent questioning, candidates more often than not have no answer. Few can say “here is what I would propose once in office.”

Clearly, we can’t strap them to a chair and make them answer. What we can do, though, is share with you when they were pressed on specifics and how they answered. We’re being pretty direct – the candidate didn’t have an answer.

That’s not being mean. That’s not being partisan. That’s serving you, the voter, instead of the ego of the candidate. That a candidate ducks a question or simply admits to not having a solution tells you a lot, I think.

You will notice two elements about our coverage.

First, we’re not spending a lot of time probing campaign finances. Readers told us pretty clearly that of all the matters before the county and the state and the country, the inner workings of campaign money don’t interest them much.

Yes, money talks. For most campaigns, I’m guessing readers aren’t surprised by which community business leaders or PACs are supporting particular candidates. Where money matters is once someone wins office. Then, watchdogs such as good government reporters ought to double back to those campaign funding reports to link big donations to government actions taken by the elected. That’s the cause-and-effect that worries the average reader.

Public officials, of course, insist that a donation is just a support for their style of politics. They will insist the campaign money doesn’t whisper into their ears.

The other aspect of our coverage is that we aren’t covering minor party candidates. As the editor, I made that judgment. Here’s why. We have a limited staff. We wanted to put the deepest effort in reporting on candidates with a chance to get their hands on the steering wheel of government.

Putting deep reporting into candidates with little chance of winning would only dilute that work. If we had a bigger staff, we’d do more, but we have to be practical and serve readers the best we can.

And speaking of service, watch for “Voting Vitals” coming soon from Salem Reporter. We’ll regularly pull into one place the basics about voting and the elections – when to mail your ballot, when to stop using the U.S. Postal Service, where drop boxes are located, and how ballot returns are stacking up.

Our team is doing all it can to help every voter feel comfortable and confident in joining in the decisions of 2020. If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know. Our job is to serve the average reader, not the political experts and not the candidates.

Reach editor Les Zaitz by email: [email protected].

Catch all of our election coverage on our website. Watch for the tag VOTE 2020.

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