Daily Herald opinion: Why requiring candidates to submit an email address will benefit them and the public

The Daily Herald remains one of the few news media outlets today that regularly endorses in political contests. As the number of journalists in the state continues to dwindle, many news outlets have pointed to the cost and staff time involved in endorsing as well as the real risk of losing subscribers who don't agree with the media outlet's opinions.

We're well aware of both issues.

At election time, we deputize every supervising editor on staff to join the members of the editorial board. And we have seen people drop their subscriptions when we've endorsed the candidate they didn't support.

Yet, we feel our endorsements on the whole have been helpful, and many of you have told us so.

We stretch our staff resources to the max in the months leading up to an election - no more so than when it's a local election. Next April, you will elect mayors, village trustees, city council members, municipal clerks, school board members at four levels - elementary, high school, unit districts and community college districts, park commissioners, library trustees and fire district trustees.

Consider that the Daily Herald circulates in about 100 towns, and the potential number of candidates is dizzying.

The first thing we do once all of the candidates have filed and all the challenges to candidacy have been adjudicated is start collecting valid email addresses for each candidate in a contested race so that we can send them questionnaires and perhaps an editorial board meeting.

Yes, we have to track them all down ourselves. Every last one. If we fail to at least make the invitation, we've failed.

Just collecting emails takes staffers weeks to do. Unlike in state-level or national races, where candidates hire campaign managers, most municipal, school, park and library races are kitchen table campaigns. Many first-time candidates emerge here. And many candidates are unaware that we need to reach out to them.

If we didn't have to expend so much energy tracking down candidates in contested races, we could spend more time writing stories about those races, get more Q&As with candidates posted online and published in the newspaper sooner.

In short, we could do a better job of informing our readers who these candidates are and we could endorse in more races.

And that's good for democracy.

What we ask is that the General Assembly pass legislation that merely requires each candidate in Illinois who runs for office to supply the proper authorities with a viable email address.

Madeleine Doubek, when she was with the Better Government Association, lobbied for this, but it failed to get past House Speaker Mike Madigan's desk. Now with Change Illinois, Doubek says she will continue the fight.

This was attempted once before and failed to gain traction. But we've spoken with several suburban state lawmakers who say it is a reasonable request and they plan to introduce such legislation.

We're encouraged by that.

Yes, this is something that will benefit the news media, including us, greatly.

But it also will benefit all of the candidates and, more importantly, for all of the voters who are trying to make reasoned choices at the ballot box.

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