If this campaign season seemed unusually long, that is because it has been. The season got off to a rocky start when the Illinois State Board of Elections told the City Clerk to accept nominating petitions during an earlier time period than that posted on the Clerk’s website. In addition, it appears that people “forgot” that in 1992 the voters of Evanston approved a referendum mandating a primary election if there were more than two candidates for Mayor.

As it turned out there were five candidates for Mayor. Several candidates for Mayor challenged their competitors on the basis of their filings. The local Election Board decided to allow everyone on the ballot, and primary was held on Feb. 28 which narrowed the field to two candidates for Mayor.

The contest for Fifth Ward Alderman – with five candidates – also necessitated a primary election, this one by State law. Again, the field was narrowed to two candidates.

In City contests, every registered voter has a chance to vote for Mayor and for City Clerk. In addition, every registered voter has a chance to vote for Alderman, although there is a contest in only six of the City’s nine wards.

Both the District 65 and District 202 School Boards will be newly constituted.

Information on all candidates, including articles, profiles, and letters, is available in this paper and in the election section here.

Another important question on the ballot is District 65’s referendum to increase property taxes to fund its operations. Articles relating to the referendum are available here, and so is the RoundTable’s editorial supporting the referendum, as well as letters supporting or opposing the referendum.

By longstanding tradition, the RoundTable does not endorse candidates in local elections, but we have some thoughts to pass on to voters.

• Look at each candidate carefully.

• Who among them seem to have the best interests of the community they wish to represent – ward, City, or school district – at heart?

• Who has a personal agenda rather than a set of priorities?

• Which candidates would make significant proposals and meaningful amendments, and would engage in thoughtful discussion?

• Do the candidate’s skills and expertise match the challenges he or she is apt to face?

• Will the candidate’s education and professional background assist in evaluating and deciding critical issues brought before the governing body?

• Has the candidate attended meetings of the governing body and shown an interest in its operation?

• Which, if any, seems to prefer to be a naysayer, who votes against most measures but has no positive alternatives or solutions to propose?

• Which candidates seem both able to stand up for what they believe and to forge a consensus?

• How well does each candidate appear to know and understand the community or the governmental body he or she aims to represent?

• How well does each know the strengths – not simply the challenges – the City or the School Districts will face?

• What is each candidate’s experience in moving measures toward approval and implementation?

• Who is going to be angry at voters who do not vote for them or for their friends?

We suggest that an election is not a popularity contest; it is an exercise in democracy to help the Evanston schools and the Evanston community evolve and become better, bringing all residents along.

Vote for the best qualified candidates – those who are principled and informed and whom you can respect, even if on occasion they may not vote your way.

Early voting continues at the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., through April 3. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on March 23-25; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on March 26; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. March 27-31 and April 3; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on April 1; and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 2.

Polls will be open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. on Election Day, April 4.