Compiling a Voter's Guide
A Voter's Guide (aka CQR for Candidate Questionnaire Responses) is like a virtual debate. It contains the written responses of all candidates to League questions and is published either in newspapers or on the League website or both. Correspondence with the candidates is done by email. Chrystal Schivell will email the templates referred to below to League members who volunteer to compile Guides (so you don't have to retype) and will work with you to create the Guides. I can be reached at 609-924-5238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The steps in compiling a Voters' Guide are as follows:
Create questions for the office you're covering. This can be done anytime, and we generally use only three questions. Generic questions, like “What personal and professional experiences have prepared you for serving on this Board?” often yield interesting responses. You can re-use questions from the past. Click on Voters Guides Archives on the League website to see previous guides. Or you can cull questions from your local newspapers and from friends and neighbors. If you do create a question that has never been used before, please email it to me to have it approved by the Leadership Committee.
Establish word limits and deadlines and whether a newspaper will be publishing your Voters' Guide. Call or email me in early September. We'll work together on how best to deal with the office you've chosen. The Packet usually needs the Guides by mid-October. That means you can create your own deadlines to correspond with whatever work or travel plans you have during September and early October. I try to give the candidates 10-14 days to complete their responses, including two weekends, and I try to avoid the Jewish holidays or allow extra time.
Get contact information for your candidates. Call your county clerk for the official list of certified candidates for the office you're covering. Sometimes you'll be directed to municipal clerks or school district secretaries. September 14 is the date they compile the ballot, so they'll have the list by then. We include independent candidates along with Democrat and Republican in our Guides.
The official list has a residential address but you should try to get an email address too. Be sure to get the candidate's party, whether the candidate is an incumbent, and the number of open seats and term of office.
The email contact for an incumbent can be found on the website for the office. If a candidate has run before; I may have the address. Otherwise, you either have to find a phone number so you can ask for the email address or write a letter. You can adapt the wording from Template #1 to explain why you're asking for the email address. Candidates are very willing to comply.
Note: If there is no contest for the office, League won't cover it.
List of Templates
1. Establish email contact with the candidates – Template #1- an email to candidates
By changing the addressee, office, deadlines, and signature, you can simply copy this template over and over for each of your candidates. (If The Packet is not involved, we'll have to adapt the template.)
Be sure the candidate replies so you know you've established contact.
2. Create the questionnaire. Template #2 – the questionnaire
This template gives the format: occupation, website, and responses to League questions. We want candidates to use this format and return it, filled out, as an attachment.
3. Send the questionnaire as an attachment to email. Template#3 – email introducing questionnaire
This template will need the same changes as Template #1. Include the questionnaire as an attachment in Word. Be sure you hear that the candidates received it; otherwise, email them again until you do. Once you know the candidates have the questions, you can take a break!
4. Remind candidates of the deadline/Confirm receipt of Responses – Template #4
Template #4 has my explanations of the final steps in dealing with candidate. It includes checking the word count and deciding what to do when candidates go over the word limit – a common occurance. If you can't open their attachment with the responses, ask them to re-send. If the responses are returned within an email, it's easy to copy them into the Guide.
5. Compile the Voters' Guide. Template #5 – Example of a Voter's Guide
Open the emailed Template 5 as a text document in Word. Change the office in the italicized Editor's Note and the reference to The Packet if necessary. The boldface type is your format and merely needs to be updated to reflect the office and questions you've chosen. Note: you can start the process any time and add to it as candidates send their responses.
List the candidates alphabetically. Include the party, whether the candidate is an incumbent, the occupation, and website if applicable.
Copy the first question in bold.
Keeping alphabetical order, type the first candidate's name in bold, then copy the response from his/her attachment and paste it into your Guide. Copy and paste the next candidate's response. Keep going until all candidates are listed.
Never change anything that the candidate submitted unless it's to omit spacing.
Copy the second question and repeat the pattern.
I like to be sure I made no mistakes so I verify that the candidate's word count is the same as the word count in the Guide, and I read both quickly to see that they're identical.
Be sure to include the League's Mission Statement, which can be copied as is.
Send the Guide
If this is your first Guide, please email it as an attachment to me or Sandy Smith to proofread, just in case.
After we proofread it, email it as an attachment to the relevant newspaper and/or to Sandy Shapiro to post on the League website.
Pat yourself on the back.
You've just done the voters a huge service and made a big contribution to the Princeton League and its reputation.