Absentee voting

Jewish News editor Andrew Lapin explains how we will be covering the 2020 elections.

Michigan’s statewide primary elections are coming up on Aug. 4, and we at the Jewish News encourage all our readers to vote in them.

We especially advocate for the use of mail-in and absentee ballots as a safe and healthy alternative to the physical voting booth, as our state’s reported coronavirus cases appear to be on the upswing as of this writing.

Andrew Lapin
Andrew Lapin

All registered Michigan voters should have by now received their vote-by-mail applications, and you have until the Friday before the election — this year, July 31 — to request a mail-in ballot. You can also request one in person at your clerk’s office any time before 4 p.m. on Election Day.

Next week we’ll have some coverage of our area’s major contested Congressional primaries from “the Jewish angle.” But when it comes to the smaller local races, we won’t be covering them as prominently. This is in keeping with an established JN editorial policy to minimize local campaign coverage.

We abstain because we lack the resources to profile every single candidate in every race on the ballot, and covering local elections in which some, but not all, of the candidates are Jewish is tricky business for us. Our readers do not necessarily cast their ballots exclusively for other Jews; in fact, in the past, many have backed Gentile candidates over Jewish ones. We don’t feel it’s our job to tell anyone to vote for or against Jews, nor do we feel we “owe” coverage to the Jewish candidates simply because they’re Jewish. And sometimes there are no Jews running for positions in heavily Jewish areas.

We recommend going to vote411.org, which gathers information about all the candidates on the ballot, to read up on the choices in your local races and make an informed decision. You will still see us occasionally report on certain aspects of local races, such as reported instances of anti-Semitism. (See page 20 for one such story.)

In general, we do believe it’s important for members of our Jewish community to seek public office, whether on city councils, boards of education, county commissions, in Lansing or in Washington. While we may not have the capacity to cover the breadth or depth of our local elections, we do strongly advocate for our community members to bring their experiences, often informed by Jewish values and teachings, to our democratic process.

Leading up to the general election in November, the JN will compile and submit questionnaires to the campaigns of major races (including Congress, Senate and president), along with invitations to sit down with our editorial staff. Even in these cases, the JN won’t be endorsing anyone. Endorsements at the Jewish News traditionally came from an editorial board led by its publisher. But these days our newsroom is too small to disentangle any endorsement we make from our reporting itself, and we don’t want one to appear to inform the other.

Following the election, we will take stock of the winners and report on the new and returning local Jewish elected officials worth covering. Happy voting!