For some in Michigan votes have already been cast in the Nov. 3 election. Others are still sorting out who they will vote for.
A voters guide published Oct. 3 by Public Media Network may help the latter group. The guide offers information on candidates running in contested races in state, city, county and township elections. This includes races in Kalamazoo County, Oshtemo Charter Township and Comstock Charter Township.
The PMN Voter Guide includes candidate pictures, bios, and video interviews, with questions that came directly from the community election survey PMN sent out in June.
"Community-driven voter information is critical to ensure that candidates are addressing the topics that voters want to know more about, rather than mainstream media deciding the issues in an election,” says Matt Schuster, Executive Director of Public Media Network. “Through this voter guide and candidate statements, we provide a platform for candidates to reach voters without having to pay for commercial air time, and in formats that allow them to discuss issues in more detail."
The voter's guide for 2020 builds upon the election programming that Public Media Network has been doing for a number of years. PMN has historically provided opportunities for candidates to express their viewpoints through its resources to help them present their viewpoints without paying for commercial airtime.
In 2018, PMN shifted to provide the opportunity for candidates to record a candidate statement introducing themselves to prospective voters. Last year, PMN added the opportunity to record a 30-minute candidate interview with a set of standard questions per race.
Raine Kuch, Community Journalist for PMN
This year, the coverage shifted to the voter guide and the questions were based on community input for what voters wanted candidates to address.
And this year, Raine Kuch was hired as a journalist as PMN builds on its commitment to keeping the community informed. She was hired to go into the community and create stories about people, problems, and their solutions as well as the ideas that are shaping Kalamazoo.
Kuch describes the process of pulling together their election guide this way.
“The creation of our voter guide was the direct result of our commitment to letting the community direct our coverage this year. It started with a survey. We created an election survey and sent it out into the community. From this, we learned which issues mattered most to the community, and what form they wanted their coverage to take.”
The community told PMN that it wanted a voter guide and a video interview format was included (to meet the request for panel discussions). They created the list of questions that PMN asked candidates based on the input of those surveyed.
Matt Schuster, Executive Director for PMN
“The overall goal of our coverage, the guide included, was to bring more attention to local elections,” Kuch says. “Too often, federal elections get all of the media coverage, and residents fill out their ballots without having a clear idea of who their local candidates are. State, city, county, and municipal leaders have a direct impact on this community, and it's important we take as much care and consideration in choosing those officials, as we do our federal officials.”
Did she gain any insights as she created the Voters Guide?
“It really solidified the importance of hearing the candidates speak. Visiting a candidate's website and reading a paragraph about what they want to do in their desired political office, is NOT the same thing as listening to them speak about what they are passionate about. Listening to them speak makes their intentions clear in a way text can't. I would recommend making an effort to hear every candidate speak, if possible, and making sure that your passions align with theirs. “
Coverage of the 2020 election by PMN's Raine Kuch can be found here
Southwest Michigan's Second Wave thanks PMN for allows us to republish this information.