The editorial pages of American newspapers have been publishing endorsements ahead of elections since colonial times.

While these pages, too, have carried scores of them since 1862, the editorial board has decided not to endorse any candidate in Maine’s upcoming races.

A conversation on the question this time around led us to ask: What is there to be gained by endorsing? We could not come up with answers that tipped the scale.

What is there to be gained by deciding not to endorse? Firstly, we don’t believe that our readers want us to tell them how to vote. By not endorsing this year, we’re creating more space for people to reach their own decisions.

By not publishing candidate endorsements, we’re also avoiding the risk of the hard line between the editorial board and the newsroom getting ignored, and our independence getting called into question by people who are either unaware of or will not bother with the critical distinction between the two.

And while we aren’t convinced that a single statement of our position on who should hold office should change anybody’s mind, we are of the firm belief that a varied and informative mix of opinion coverage can. Editorials based on candidates’ platforms, positions and promises are and will always be fair game.


As the institutional view can and does change, so can the institutional position. In recent times, the Press Herald has chosen mostly to endorse. The last time the paper chose not to uphold the tradition was in 2014, writing:

“Some argue that an endorsement is a helpful piece of information for voters, whether they agree with the conclusion or not. But there are ways to convey information about someone seeking public office without creating that false impression that we are on that person’s team.”

The endorsement is a crystallization of the institutional view otherwise on display in a publication’s editorials (we publish several every week). It can be seen as a disclosure, an encouragement or a political intervention. Some look at it as a bet. The Economist calls an endorsement “a ballot in spirit.”

Although we will not be casting any such ballots for candidates, we will be wading into the five citizen- and eight charter-initiated questions on the ballot in Portland, scrutinizing them one by one on their merits and demerits.

We already know that some will require a longer and harder look than others. Relative to some of its counterparts, an amendment to the preamble of the city charter so that it includes land acknowledgement is a question posed in black-and-white with identifiable consequences. A proposal to establish an executive mayor’s office and transform city budgeting, meanwhile, calls for a magnifying glass (and, some would argue, the help of a CPA).

With that said, here’s the plan.


In the coming weeks we will host a series of meetings, events and debates; we will publish perspectives on the issues from as many sides are as willing to express them; and, with plenty of time to go before Nov. 8 – and, indeed, the mail-in voting deadline of Oct. 18 – we plan to publish our endorsement of “yes” or “no” votes to every question posed to the Portland voter.

We will continue to be brokers of opinion; a role we rely on our readers to help us fulfill. In addition to continuing to publish our own positions on the issues, we will continue to publish yours: your letters, op-eds, Maine Voices submissions and online comments, in a bid to keep the conversation going and make it as lively and informed as possible.

Productive dialogue with readers is possible without candidate endorsements – it takes place here every day. We‘re not giving up on informing; in the absence of an instruction on who to vote for, we’re doubling down on it.

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