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Editorial - Here are our guidelines for political letters

With the political races heating up, now is a good time to remind readers of the Echo Press' guidelines for political letters to the editor.

As in the past, letters to the editor that endorse a particular candidate or political party will be charged 5 cents per word. The newspaper started the policy several years ago because there is a limited amount of space available on the Opinion page.

The letters are printed on the Opinion page under the heading "Paid Political Letters" and are paid for in advance by the person writing the letter. There is a 200-word limit on endorsement letters.

All letters must be signed and include an address and phone number for verification purposes. Letters submitted by a group or organization must still contain at least one individual's name that represents the group and an address. If a letter contains several signatures, only the first five names will be printed.

The Echo Press will try to print every letter it receives as long as it meets the guidelines (contains a signature, is under the word limit, isn't libelous, etc.). The newspaper does not selectively put some letters in and leave others out.

Deadlines for paid political letters are the same as regular letters to the editor - noon on Monday for consideration in Wednesday's newspaper and noon on Wednesday for the Friday edition.

The last batch of endorsement letters will be printed in the October 29 issue and they can't be controversial or raise new issues. No paid letters will be printed in the October 31 issue right before the election.

Douglas County residents will have plenty of choices to make on Election Day, November 4. Besides the presidential and U.S. Senate race, they'll help decide who will be their U.S. Representative in the 7th District - incumbent DFLer Collin Peterson or Republican challenger, Glen Menze.

An important Constitutional amendment question also hangs in the balance. Voters will decide whether to approve the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment that would increase the sales tax by three-eighths of a percent. The money would go to ensure safe drinking water sources, protect wildlife habitat, preserve natural areas, protect the outdoors and preserve arts and cultural heritage.

Voters in the western half of the county will choose between three candidates running for District 11A state representative - incumbent Republican Torrey Westrom, DFL-endorsed Bruce Campbell or Dave Holman from the Independence Party. Voters in the eastern half of the county, District 11B, will select either DFL incumbent, Mary Ellen Otremba, or Republican challenger, Dave Kircher.

Local races also promise to add extra zest to this year's election.

Two Douglas County commissioners, Jerry Johnson in District 1 and Bev Bales in District 3, are up for election and are being challenged by Dennis Nagle and Jeff Callaghan.

Alexandria residents will elect a mayor - either the incumbent Dan Ness or challenger, Virgil Batesole. Two Alexandria City Council seats are also contested - Harvey Weisel (incumbent) and Owen Miller are vying for the Ward 3 position, and Elroy Frank (incumbent) is being opposed by Dave Tischer in the Ward 5 race.

To help voters make more informed decisions on Election Day, the Echo Press is putting together a Voter's Guide featuring a detailed candidate questionnaire. Look for it in the October 29 issue.

The Echo Press will also be reporting the results online as the votes come in election night. Aside from the negative campaigning that has bogged down the national races, it's an exciting time to be an American citizen right now. Democracy is in action. Be a part of it!