There are three times a year where we can brace ourselves for an onslaught of letters: March village elections, May school elections and the general elections in November. Of the three, the village elections are usually the quietest, and so far this month we’ve only received a handful of election letters for Westchester/Putnam – all involving Port Chester.
However, with the March 18 elections just over a week away, and with our endorsement editorials running this week, the number of election letters we receive is likely to shoot upward. Waiting until the last minute to send such letters seems to be a deliberate strategy, as candidates want to be the ones whose supporters get “the last word” in, leaving the other side with insufficient time to respond. Unfortunately for them, this strategy may backfire as we find ourselves with more election letters than we have space to accommodate. If we get a flood of last-minute letters for a candidate, they are likely to be used only on our Web site rather than in print, and may be rejected altogether if we feel there is insufficient time to contact the writer for verification or to fact-check questionable assertions.
Therefore, we have an “unofficial” deadline for receipt of election letters (usually the Thursday before the election) which gives us time to “catch up” and schedule the last batch of letters to run in a timely fashion. We will accept letters after the “deadline” if the other side needs to respond to a letter that has already appeared, but a last-minute “attack” letter or one that raises new issues won’t be used if the candidate being criticized wouldn’t have enough time to get a response published before the election.
Another thing we can count on is that the election letters we do receive are often well over our 250-word limit. Campaigns will often send us the same letters that they send to whichever weekly publication(s) cover the municipality in question; since these publications allow for much longer letters, that means we’re getting letters that are 450-500 words or more. We are not likely to run such letters if it is obvious that they were sent to other publications, nor are we going to take to time to cut them down or return them to the writer for trimming if they are last-minute submissions.
So, if you’re looking to have a village election letter published this week, please keep it brief, and get it to us right away.