If you’re like me, you’re already wondering about the presidential election of 2024. (Chelsea Clinton vs George P. Bush? Both of those Castro twins from Texas against a cryogenically preserved Newt Gingrich?)

So it seems really strange to me when I hear that people say that it’s too early to talk about this year’s election, which is now just four months away. For the last year or so, every time a poll comes out, the sage old opinionators will sadly shake their heads and say, “It’s way too early. No one is paying attention yet.”

Well, if its still too early, it won’t be too early for long and judging from the letters to the editor we are already receiving, it hasn’t been too early for a while now.

So this is a good time to set a few ground rules for contributors to these pages.

We like letters. We like a lot of them. We like when they respond to stories that have appeared in our paper, and we like them when they call attention to things that have escaped our attention. We want to get as many letters in the newspaper as possible, so when it comes to candidate endorsement letters we are going to ask you to keep it brief – 150 words or less.

This is half the length of our usual maximum, but enough to say that you’re voting for Joe and a reason why. It may not be enough space to say every reason why you like Joe, just one. You can only hope that other readers will think of those other reasons and write letters citing the ones you didn’t have room for.

Not only do you need to limit yourself to 150 words, but some of these words have to be the name of the office your candidate is running for and his or her party affiliation. If he or she doesn’t belong to a party, say that.

This is because candidates, especially legislative candidates, would rather stress their independence not say what party they belong to, but when they go to the State House their party is about the most important thing about them.

It’s no service to say I’m voting for Joe because he’s nice to cats without saying that Joe is a Communist.

We want to run as many letters as we can, but we won’t be able to run all of them. Our goal is to be fair to the candidates, fair to the writers and, most of all, fair to the readers.

We look at letters on a particular issue or race and run them in rough proportion to the ones that come in. If we get 10 letters in support of Joe and one backing his opponent, we might run three of the pro-Joe letters, indicating the depth of his support without being repetitive. Since all the letters don’t come in at the same time, we may have a number of pro-Joe letters one day, and a bunch of anti-Joe letters the next week.

Some people will try to get around the word-count limit by submitting a column-length piece for Maine Voices. Our rule on endorsement columns is hard and fast: Sometimes it’s OK, but usually it’s not.

Since there is much more competition for column space, we are going to be very selective about using campaign-related material. We are looking for writers who have a special knowledge about a subject introducing a thought-provoking argument in an interesting way. Columns that endorse candidates rarely clear any of those hurdles. Columns written by candidates almost never do.

There are exceptions, but they will be exceptions, not the norm. And all of the usual rules apply:

No anonymous letters, nothing libelous or obscene, no personal attacks. That’s what the Internet is for.

And while it’s a long way off, it’s important to remember deadlines. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, but don’t send your letter on Nov. 3 and expect it to get in. We will not run any election-related letters or columns after Saturday, Nov. 1 , which means that we should have received your letter by Tuesday, Oct. 28.

We can make exceptions for late letters that respond to late charges or make a completely novel point, but don’t count on yours meeting those standards. If you want to make sure that your letter is considered, pay attention to the deadline.

But there’s no reason to wait until the last minute. The campaign season is underway and it’s not to early to talk politics any more.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or [email protected]

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