Where are the questionnaires?

An open letter to the local editors

On April 28th, voters started voting in the June 7th Primary Election and that election is now 4 weeks away.  In Linn County, 273 voters out of the 566 voters who requested absentee ballots have voted. So how do the voters know who to vote for on the local level?

One of the ways voters know who to vote for is via the information published by the local media, e.g., The Gazette, KCRG, KGAN, KWWL, WMT, KZIA, and others. But thus far, those news stories appear to be regurgitated press releases from the candidates.  Where are the in-depth interviews by reporters and talk show hosts?  Or the candidate questionnaires?

Over the years, I have talked to some of the local editors about posting their candidate questionnaires on the web prior to the beginning of early/absentee voting. In most elections, that means the candidates’ questionnaires would have to be completed and posted onto a website 40 days prior to an election.  In the 2014 and 2015 elections, the candidates’ answers to the questionnaires, if posted, were posted after hundreds, if not thousands, of early voters had voted.  That delay in posting the questionnaires deprives the voters of the information they may need to make an informed choice in every race.  And voters who are uninformed are likely to skip the races where they do not know the candidates.  Or vote in some races based upon name ID (e.g., in a primary election) or party (e.g., in a general election).

I realize that most local news organizations have lost a number of resources related to reporting. On the other hand, the revenue gained from a year’s worth of advertising derived from the 2016 Iowa caucuses coupled with the spending that will occur in some of the upcoming Congressional and legislative races should allow the media to devote resources to managing the questionnaires and/or doing in-depth reporting.

Candidate questionnaires level the playing field for candidates opposing each other for the same office by asking the same questions in each race. And if the responses to the questionnaires were posted online 40 days ahead of an election, voters would have a place to go to get information on the candidates.

As of today, I have not received a candidate questionnaire from anyone associated with the local media so I would say to the local editors, “Don’t bother”.  But do bother for the November General Election and my advice to you is, “Start today”.

Respectfully submitted for your consideration, 

Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Motto: Get registered, Get informed, Get voting

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