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Editorial: Chronicle rules apply to election letters

Ready or not, we’re in the home stretch of the Nov. 5, 2013, general election. Ballots will be going out this weekend and voters are considering their choices.

Elections are important and while this is a one-issue election in Wasco County, Measure 33-80 to replace the public swimming pool, a large turnout offers a stronger indication of public will no matter which direction the decision goes, so we encourage everyone to register and vote.

One challenge during elections is to manage the letters to the editor. Letters are the soul of the editorial page and the love of nearly every editor in America.

But they often arrive in massive quantities at election time, so to give everyone a chance to to be heard, we have some special rules that make it possible to publish more letters. So here are the rules of engagement in effect now through the election.

Letters that don’t follow newspaper policy won’t get printed.

We encourage letter writers to submit their letters no later than Thursday, Oct. 31, to assure that, if accepted, they will be published before the election.

ONE LETTER PER PERSON: Each person may submit one — and only one — political letter pertaining to the Nov. 5 election.

MAXIMUM 250 WORDS: In order to provide space for as many different writers as possible, our limit for political letters will be 250 words. That is shorter than our standard 400-word limit. Political letters fall into a different category and are considered separately from other letters.

LOCAL ONLY: Political letters submitted from outside Wasco, Hood River, Sherman, Gilliam and Klickitat counties will not be accepted.

VERIFICATION: As is the requirement for all letters, political letters must be signed, include the name of the writer, a daytime phone number and an address. Neither the address nor the phone number will appear in the paper. Hand-delivered letters should be verified before the writer leaves The Chronicle office building.

CONTENT: Libel lawyers love election season, even though candidates are by definition public figures, and a different standard of libel applies to them. Unfounded allegations and name-calling are strongly discouraged and will disqualify a letter.

If you quote another party in your letter, make sure that you cite the source, but someone’s anonymous blog is not a good source of information. Cite reputable news sources. Make sure that you verify the data and information in letters — and, again, cite the source.

As always, the responsibility for determining which letters are suitable for publication rests with the newspaper.

NO LATE HITS: The history of local political campaigns has taught us to expect letters late in the campaign that will make allegations that cannot be substantiated which allow insufficient time for rebuttal. Such last-ditch letters have little chance of being published. If you have an issue that you believe is of significance to voters, please don’t wait until the last minute to raise it.

THE BOTTOM LINE: You have just one chance to write an election-season letter. Make it count.

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