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A member of the Observer editorial board was at an event the other day when one of Charlotte’s most experienced and astute political players approached.

“I want to urge you to run the Observer’s endorsements as soon as possible, before early voting starts,” he said. “I have no idea who half these people are, and I don’t have the time to research them myself.”

We hear that from lots of readers. It was telling, though, that even someone as plugged in as this voter was hungry for our perspective on the races.

We on the editorial board are under no illusion that we have all the “right” answers, or that our readers will vote the way we will. But we do believe that researching the candidates and weighing in with our opinions of who would be most effective is at the core of what we do. All year, we try to help inform debate about public policy; it follows that in election season we would try to inform readers about the people who want to craft those public policies.

Our efforts, we hope, are especially valuable in a year like this, when there are so many little-known offices and candidates on the ballot. Few people need a news outlet to help them decide whether they’ll vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But district court judge? Their N.C. House district? Soil and water conservation district supervisor?

You’re forgiven if you’ve been paying attention to other things in your life. Luckily, we haven’t. We’ve been interviewing district court judge candidates, and House candidates and, yes, soil and water supervisor candidates. We’ve also been talking with others who know the candidates and have worked with them, and we’ve researched their records in and out of office.

When we’ve completed our interviews and research, we discuss each race as a team and, in consultation with Publisher Rodney Mahone, decide on our endorsements. We are attracted not to Democrats or Republicans, but to candidates who we think are knowledgeable, ethical, hard-working and who will best serve all North Carolinians regardless of party, gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other characteristic.

We should make one thing clear: Our endorsements reflect the opinions of the editorial board, not of reporters, editors, photographers, ad salespeople, press operators, carriers or anyone else. The Observer is owned by Sacramento-based McClatchy, but corporate leaders have zero involvement in the endorsement process.

In the coming days, we will be endorsing in every race and measure on the Mecklenburg County ballot, from the U.S. House to the legislature to the courts to county commissioners, bonds and constitutional amendments. We’re not trying to coerce your vote and we’re not predicting who will win. Some of you, in fact, enjoy telling us our endorsements are helpful because you then vote the opposite way.

That’s OK. We want people to vote, and to be informed when they do. We hope our research and endorsements contribute to that.

You can see all the Observer editorial board’s endorsements in one place here.

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