Daily Herald opinion: Moeller legislation would promote fairer campaigns, better-informed voters

This editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

We have a personal interest in legislation filed recently by Elgin Democratic state Rep. Anna Moeller.

You do, too.

Moeller's bill would require candidates for political office to include email addresses on petitions filed with their statement of candidacy. Already, candidates provide a standard mailing address. This legislation would move that requirement into the 21st century.

For us in the news media, that means assured access to candidates, so reporters can cover their campaigns more accurately and thoroughly and media outlets can reach them for basic information, such as candidate questionnaires, that voters use to be more informed about their selections.

That increased quantity of information is certainly valuable for you as a voter, and the increased access can allow you to interact with campaigns in ways that not only provide details about candidates' positions but also enable candidates to interact with you in ways that help them refine and clarify their message.

As originally filed, HB3965 applies to candidates in statewide and county primaries, but Moeller told us she plans an amendment that will extend the requirement to municipal, school and township elections as well.

This will add an important dimension to the bill. Candidates for local office sometimes are not as media savvy as those seeking higher positions, who often have more campaign experience or even professional staffs. Even in some local cases in which candidates have provided contact information, clerks have refused to release it without a Freedom of Information Act request. Requiring candidates to include an email address will clarify the process and better enable the news media to treat all candidates equally.

The requirement is not controversial, and Moeller says she already has support lined up to sponsor the measure in the Senate should it make it through the House. We're counting on suburban lawmakers from both chambers to get on board and sign on as co-sponsors as the legislation moves through the General Assembly.

In a series of editorials last December on little-discussed topics that could improve our election system, we emphasized the value of this simple and practical adjustment to candidates' filing requirements. It's encouraging to find responsive lawmakers who recognize that that value extends not just to the agencies that cover local and statewide political campaigns, but also and most importantly to the voters who rely on that coverage and who need to be able to interact with candidates and their campaigns.

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