NC Family President John L. Rustin speaks with Jere Royall and Jake Sipe, members of the NC Family staff. They discuss the importance of this year’s election, the NC Family voter guide, and what listeners can do to help.
Thanks for joining for Family Policy Matters. The 2018 General Election is right around the corner and as many North Carolina voters have come to expect, the North Carolina Family Policy Council will once again be providing an objective, nonpartisan Voter Guide as a service to our state. Today, I’m joined by two NC Family team members: Jere Royall, our Director of Community Impact and Council; and Jake Sipe, our Communications Associate. Our entire office has been hard at work for months preparing the 2018 General Election Voter Guide that you can access now at ncfamilyvoter.com, and we’re excited to talk about this project today. Jere and Jake, welcome to Family Policy Matters. It’s great to have you on the show.
Jere, let’s start with you. Talk a little bit about why NC Family produces a Voter Guide every election cycle and what is unique about our guide versus other voter guides that may be available to the voters of our state.
JERE ROYALL: Years ago, we realized it was very difficult to find any information about where the candidates for statewide office stood on many of the important issues we address in our work. I’m not aware of any other Voter Guide that covers as many issues or as many races, and it does so in an impartial, nonpartisan way. We do not endorse candidates. We just try to inform voters of where the candidates stand on many important issues. Many guides actually endorsed candidates, which is fine, but because our guide is impartial, it is legal for churches to distribute them. When it comes to issues and elections, the main restriction for churches is that they cannot engage in what the IRS calls political campaign activity for or against a candidate. Churches can have nonpartisan voter registration and can out impartial Voter Guides. So I see this a effort by the Family Policy Council is part of how we can love our neighbors, caring about who’s elected to office and the laws that are passed because these decisions will affect many of our neighbors.
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, there’s no doubt about that and it’s so important that voters have good information, reliable information about where the candidates stand on issues that they care about and we have found years ago that there was a real void for that type of resource to the voters of our state. And that’s why, beginning in 2000, the 2000 general election, the North Carolina Family Policy Council first started producing a Voter Guide. And it’s really become a part of an important part of voting in North Carolina. Well, Jake, why don’t you talk a little bit about the breadth of the races and the candidates that are included in this year’s Voter Guide and the candidate response rate this year?
JAKE SIPE: We sent out questionnaires to every candidate that was running for US Congress, every candidate that was running for the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals, as well as all candidates running for the North Carolina General Assembly, so the North Carolina State House and State Senate. All totaled that represents over 400 candidates. So, in the General Assembly this year, every single contest was contested. And so there [were] candidates on both sides of the political spectrum for every single race there, which was a first time in North Carolina history or one of the first times in North Carolina history. So, there was a ton of candidates and we really do make an effort to include everybody. So, both parties get the questionnaire and the response rate was great this year. So this represents the most amount of candidates that have responded to our questionnaire since at least 2008. So, we really were overwhelmed with the response that we got and it really made the product one that is going to be helpful for voters across the state.
JOHN RUSTIN: And we’re also seeing more candidates from a greater variety of political parties. We’ve got, of course Republicans and Democrats, we’ve got a Libertarian candidates, Unaffiliated candidates and also candidates with the Constitution party and the Green party running in North Carolina. So we did send out questionnaires to all candidates regardless of party affiliation, and then encouraged them multiple times to participate in the Voter Guide, because we really want this resource to be a conduit of information from the candidates directly to the voters. So talk a little bit about some of the topics that are covered in this year’s guide.
JAKE SIPE: So we include questions about the sanctity of human life, religious liberty, educational choice, campus free speech is one of the topics that I think is hot right now and that we did a question for US Congress candidates on. And we also asked some questions about gambling—Of course, the Supreme Court made it possible to make sports betting legal in states, so we asked the state candidates about that. So all of those are topics that are really on the minds of voters right now, so it will really be helpful to see where your candidates stand on those issues. The other thing that I think is maybe the most helpful question that we ask, and probably one of the most helpful for voters across the state is the judicial questions that we ask. And it’s always interesting to see their responses. So one of the questions that we ask judicial candidates is where their judicial philosophy—which Supreme Court justices’ judicial philosophy most closely aligns to their judicial philosophy. And so, if somebody feels like they’re a judicial moderate, they might say a Kennedy and if they feel like they’re more on the original intent side, they might say Clarence Thomas or Alito. But it’s always interesting, extremely valuable to see what did the judicial candidates say for that question. Because, usually for the average voter in North Carolina, they don’t know that much about judicial candidates. Of course, this is the first time for the Supreme Court that the party affiliation is going to be listed there, but our Voter Guide is one of the only places that you can see pretty clearly spelled out where judicial candidates stand on their judicial philosophy as well as… Another question that we asked them that it’s that I think is really important is what is the role of faith that plays in their daily life and that’s a nonpartisan question. That’s a question that you can go on our website and read: Hey, what does this judicial candidate believe? Or what role does faith play in their life? And it’s always… It’s just a good way to get to know candidates that I think usually are just a name on a ballot and so if you really want to do your education and get to know some of these candidates that you might not see on TV, our Voter Guides are really a great place to do that.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jake, I think that’s a great point and one thing that I’ll point out for our listeners is that I think one of the things that makes our Voter Guide somewhat unique and also helps to… helps us get a very high response rate from the candidates is that we invite candidates to provide additional comments or explanations for their answers. So if they feel hemmed in because they don’t want to answer yes, no, or undecided to an issue, we invite them to provide additional comments to help fully explain where they stand on these issues. And then we scan all of those questionnaires and post them up on the Voter Guide website so that people can see, in their own handwriting, where the candidates stand specifically on these issues. And the candidates feel much better, I think, because they feel like their positions are more fully and accurately represented. But I couldn’t agree more, Jake, that especially with the judicial candidates that those kind of open-ended questions about their judicial philosophy, and also the role that faith plays in their daily lives are very, very instructive. So Jake, what is the process for including candidates in the Voter Guide, and ensuring also that everyone is treated equally and given an ample opportunity to participate.
JAKE SIPE: After the primary election is finished, someone on our staff will through and get a final General Election candidate list. And so like I mentioned earlier, that list this year was, was over 400 candidates. And what we’ll do is we will mail out our questionnaire via snail mail—old school—and then we’ll enter a pretty exhaustive follow-up process. So we will call, email, text, fax, whatever it takes. We will make sure that every candidate in the state of North Carolina is notified that the questionnaire has been sent and has an opportunity to respond. That’s true no matter what the party, whether it’s Republican, Democrat, Green, Constitution, doesn’t matter. We really want every candidate to have the opportunity to answer our questions. And if a candidate, for example, wants to write, you know, why our questions are unfair or say, you know, why some of the positions NC Family has taken is, is wrong, we’ll gladly print that and put what they write online. So we really, truly just want to get the candidates response to our questionnaire and we go through an extensive follow-up process to make sure every candidate has the opportunity to respond,
JOHN RUSTIN: Jere, talk about how we distribute the Voter Guide. How many print copies of the 2018 General Election Voter Guide are available, and how do people get their hands on them?
JERE ROYALL: This year, we have printed 300,000 guides and in addition to offering printed guides, we’re encouraging more and more people to go to our website, which you mentioned earlier, NCFamilyvoter.com, where people can see all the responses of the candidates along with any comments they’ve added to their responses of yes or no or undecided, on the various questions we’ve asked. Also on the website, you can get a personalized version of our Voter Guide where you will see just the candidates that will be on your ballot based on your address and the district you live in.If you’re currently on the NC Family mailing list, you will receive a copy of the printed Voter Guide. You can also receive guides through many churches across the state of North Carolina. In addition to that, you can order guides in multiples of 100 at no charge, for distribution in your church or civic group or your neighborhood.
JOHN RUSTIN: And the website to order those Voter Guides is either the Family Policy Council website, which is a NCFamily.org or you can go to the Voter Guide website itself, NCFamilyvoter.com, and just click on the link to order Voter Guides in bulk. And again, you can order as many as would be helpful for you to provide one to every family in your church, in your neighborhood, in your civic group, or a combination of all of those. Our desire and goal is to get Voter Guides in the hands of as many voters across the state as we can.
JAKE SIPE: And John, I’ll just add another thing. I think one of the probably best aspects of this is it truly is a voter educational tool. And so, if you’re a church or a pastor or someone who may be hesitant to include something political at your church, you know, part of our Voter Guide also is just getting some very basic information about elections into the hands of voters so, for example, it has the dates that early voting begins. It has the way to the State Board of Elections website so that the voters can see their ballot that they’re actually going to be voting on. It has the date of the General Election that’s coming up. I believe it has some information about how to get registered to vote, if you aren’t registered to vote. So this truly is an educational tool. It’s not partisan, it’s not an endorsement of any kind. We truly just want to provide a resource to the state of North Carolina that allows voters to get information about the upcoming election and to know where their representatives stand on some of these really important issues.
JOHN RUSTIN: And let me reiterate again, the personalized Voter Guide that people can access on the Voter Guide website at NCfamilyvoter.com. You go on that site and you simply type in your name and your address, and by virtue of you typing in your address, it matches you up specifically with your congressional district and your state legislative districts, and then it will generate a personalized Voter Guide for you, that includes all the candidates that are running in your congressional race, in your State Senate race, in your State House race, as well as the statewide judicial races that are so important for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. And you can have all that information there, just on your computer screen. And so, we really want to encourage voters across the state to avail themselves of this resource. If you want to go a step further, then go to the Family Policy Council website at NCFamily.org or the Voter Guide website at NCfamilyvoter.com. And be sure—absolutely—to get out there and vote! Early voting in North Carolina starts on October the 17th, the General Election this year is on Tuesday, November the 6th. And we at the North Carolina Family Policy Council want to encourage all the voters in the state of North Carolina to get out and to vote your values. And with that, Jere Royall and Jake Sipe, I want to thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters today and for the great work that you all do for the Family Policy Council and for citizens across this state. Thanks so much.
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