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From the Newsroom: Our new page makes voting easier

If everything goes as usual at the county’s mailing service provider and the post office, you should get your general election ballot in the mail today.

There are approximately 120 public offices and issues that appear on this year’s Clark County general election ballot. Admittedly, a number of offices feature only one candidate, and no one lives in every taxing district (thank goodness for that!), so you’ll only decide on a subset.

But if you are like most people, you’ve done more thinking about the presidential and congressional races on next year’s ballot. (I know you watched at least part of one of those debates where 45 Democrats running for president said nasty things about each other.)

But I have got good news for you, and more good news.

First of all, The Columbian’s Editorial Board has interviewed candidates for Vancouver City Council, Clark County Council, Port of Vancouver commissioner and the Evergreen and Vancouver school boards. I sat in on those interviews, and, if I can be political for a moment, I think the candidates who appear on the general election ballot are generally outstanding. They have their differences, but I didn’t get the feeling that electing any of the candidates I met would be a mistake.

The second piece of good news is that you can watch all of those interviews, see the editorial board’s endorsements and read about other contested races on our newly revamped elections page. This page is a subset of our also newly revamped politics page and contains national and regional political stories, as well.

Putting these pages together has been a struggle for us in past years. I can remember several times when we weren’t satisfied with the way the content was gathered, formatted and displayed.

I think our latest iterations are much stronger. Now, there is one caveat: We are still writing more election stories, so the page will continue to be updated as those stories are completed and printed in the paper. So if you don’t see a race there right now, check back in a couple of days.

Amy Libby, our web editor, gives these pages the once-over on a regular basis, but the stories are added automatically. When we write stories in our system, we have a list of tags that we can assign to the story based on the subject matter (I tagged this story “craig column,” so it will find its way to the spot at the bottom of the page with my photo.) Assuming the reporters put the right tags on the story, or the editors catch a story with missing or misapplied tags, it goes live on the election page the moment it is published on our site.

Most of the work of putting together the stories this year fell to Adam Littman, our reporter who covers small cities and school districts. He ended up with more than a dozen contested races to cover, so he started early. First, he came up with a list of questions targeted to issues in each of the cities. For example, Battle Ground City Council candidates were asked about annexing into Fire District 3, and the divisiveness caused by the Patriot Prayer rallies in opposition to Initiative 1639. He used the responses to help put together his stories, along with some interviews, voter pamphlet statements, candidates’ social media posts, and other relevant facts at hand.

Adam also was tasked with a big project: writing about the proposed Camas recreation center and sports field bond, which could cost up to $78 million. You can read that story on Sunday’s front page. It comes down to a debate over whether Camas should have an array of attractive yet expensive public facilities, or whether citizens would be better served by keeping taxes lower. As you can imagine, there are strong opinions that have fractured a community that generally works together.

With local drama like that, and the fact that a few votes can swing a local election, I find these off-year elections to be some of the most interesting and important. But even if you are thinking more about Donald Trump or Jaime Herrera Beutler, be sure to vote this year, too. And I hope you will use our collected resources to inform your decision.


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