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Potential congressional candidate Chris Countryman discusses the issues facing 2nd Congressional District

Brandon Moseley

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Former gubernatorial candidate Chris Countryman is exploring running for the Democratic nomination for the open Second Congressional District.

Countryman agreed to a lengthy interview by the Alabama Political Reporter.

APR: Huntsville, Baldwin County, Lee County and Shelby County have really experienced a lot of economic growth, but the Second Congressional District has been largely stagnant in population, is there something that can be done to boost the economic vitality of the Second district?

Countryman: “I remember when the Sony plant in Houston County shut down in 2010. There were over 300 full time employees that were let go from their jobs, many of them had worked there for over 15 years. I myself even worked there for a short time right when I got out of high school.”

“For many people most of their work experience was centered around Sony, and when Sony closed these individuals struggled to find work with comparative wages,” Countryman continued. “But Sony wasn’t the only company that closed its doors. Other factories all across District 2 shut their doors costing our economies millions of dollars in lost tax revenue; and leaving thousands of workers unemployed not knowing how they would feed themselves or their families.”

“If we are going to succeed then we need to keep up with the rest of the country, and right now, Alabama is failing miserably at providing quality jobs that pay a living wage,” Countryman added. “I would start by bringing jobs that specialize in the clean renewable energy industry to District 2 in order to rebuild the job markets in the areas that need it the most. This would rebuild the population in these areas due to the availability of new sustainable jobs, the industries would produce tangible goods that generates revenue within these areas and this would result in the citizens investing back into their local economy. What we need is a Congressman that is willing to introduce legislation that will successfully address these issues and we need someone who has committed themselves to stand with the people.”

APR: Rural healthcare has been in precipitous decline across the country and that has accelerated since the Affordable Care Act was passed, is there something the federal government can do to lure more young doctors to counties outside of major metropolitan areas?

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Countryman: “During my 2018 Alabama gubernatorial campaign I had proposed implementing policies that allow the state to offer incentives to new doctors to take up practice in rural areas. But beyond that comes the importance of improving the infrastructure in these rural areas which is a factor in drawing new medical practices to the rural areas. New doctors and their families often choose the comfort and convenience of the big city because the infrastructure in rural areas doesn’t provide adequate security and safety, access to public transportation for potential patients or medical staff, access to high speed Internet services or a competitive economy that would allow a new medical practice to succeed in rural areas. Infrastructure redevelopment in rural areas would make setting up new medical practices much more desirable to medical professionals.”

APR: The Second Congressional District is not served at all by the federal government’s Amtrak system. Is there a need to expand rail to Montgomery? Dothan?

Countryman: “Absolutely there is. District 2 has so much opportunity that has yet to be tapped. Jobs can be created and industries can be brought into our district which would create an economic boom that would benefit everyone. However the lack of adequate public transportation options available makes transportation to and from jobs almost impossible for lower income families and individuals, and it becomes even more difficult for them if they need to travel outside of their communities for work or school. Utilizing high speed rail systems as a public transportation option would provide lower income families and individuals, along with professionals from a variety of industries, with employment and education opportunities that will help them succeed in their attempts to pursue the American dream.”

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APR: Some Democratic presidential candidates, Marianne Williams for one, has objected to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Is President Trump being too hasty in withdrawing combat troops from the country and is there anything that Congress can do?

Countryman: “The withdrawal of our troops should be done strategically and responsibly. We need to continue providing an adequate military presence within Afghanistan that will continue training the country’s security forces, monitoring any potential terrorist threats and strategically work towards the withdrawal of troops from the region. While ensuring our troops safety is of utmost importance we cannot forsake our responsibility to ensure that our country and allied forces are also kept safe from rogue regimes and terrorist attacks. Withdrawing too many troops too quickly will result in destabilizing the region opening the country up to potential terrorist attacks as well as allowing terrorist organizations to gain a foothold where they could mobilize forces. This foothold would ultimately lead to a very real and dangerous threat to our national security and to that of our allies.”

APR: The U.S. military is still flying B52s that were last built in 1960; is using Ohio class ballistic missile submarines that were launched in the 1980s; and is relying on Minuteman III missiles that were first deployed in 1970. How serious is the concern that our nuclear triad has not been modernized and should this be a national priority?

Countryman: “National security is a very important issue and we shouldn’t get too comfortable in times of peace. While I personally believe that it’s of utmost importance to pursue a diplomatic solution to any conflict, I also believe that we should also be prepared to defend our country should we come under attack. For this reason, we should invest in modernizing our military defenses so long as it is done in a fiscally responsible manner. I will not support any legislation that uses a false propaganda driven rhetoric to get funding for updating our military defenses.”

APR: Is climate change real? And if so, is it practical or even constitutional, for the U.S. government to demand that businesses, farmers and citizens reduce their carbon emissions?

Countryman: “Yes, climate change is a very real and serious issue. Our government has often passed laws to protect others. Take our laws regarding drinking and driving for instance. Our government made driving while under the influence against the law to protect people. Same way with the recent laws that make it illegal to text while driving. How we use our natural resources is no different. If we know that increased carbon emissions are bad on the environment, can cause adverse health effects in people over time, and dramatically effects the overall quality of life of others then by us not taking an active role to reduce carbon emissions we are committing an act of assault against our fellow countryman. So when it comes to what is in the best interest of public health and safety I feel the responsible thing to do is for us to work with business, farmers and citizens to reduce carbon emissions, reduce our carbon footprint and protect our natural resources so that everyone can live healthier lives and so generations to come can do the same.”

APR: The Ivey administration is proposing making a portion of I-10 into a toll road to pay for upgrading existing infrastructure. Do you support using tolling to improve infrastructure in the state such as between I-10 and Dothan. Dothan and Montgomery. widening I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile, or Troy to Columbus?

Countryman: “No I do not support having toll roads for a number of reasons, first it would place the lower class at a disadvantage due to their inability to adequately travel within these areas for work and other reasons.”

“While on the surface it may seem like a good idea to some, toll bridges would end up having a negative impact on our economy and thus keeping many people impoverished,” Countryman added. “Another reason why I am opposed to this idea is because of the amount of congestion causing an increased concern for public health and safety.”

APR: The Trump administration has proposed raising the federal gas tax to pay for a $trillion in infrastructure improvements. Do you support this plan?

Countryman: “I have to be honest with you Brandon. I support parts of the plan, and there are other parts that I don’t. I believe that gas taxes are one of the most effective ways to fund infrastructure redevelopment projects, and it has been widely used as a funding source for such. But given the recklessness in government spending, specifically in regards to how funds designated to be used for infrastructure redevelopment projects have been used in the past, I would want to see some changes take place before I would consider supporting the funding of infrastructure redevelopment projects by raising the gas tax again. First I want to see more transparency when it comes to where and how our infrastructure improvement funds are spent, I would want to see more transparency when it comes to how those funds were spent in the past and I would want to work with my colleagues on formulating cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to improve and redevelop our infrastructure. I have looked into this issue extensively, we are spending way to much money using our current methods of repairing our crumbling infrastructure, especially when there are many more cost effective and environmentally friendly alternatives out there now that last longer and cost less than conventional methods.”

APR: Should the U.S. continue to support Israel or has their treatment of the Palestinians meant that we should sever our close ties with the country?

Countryman: “It’s no secret that Israel is one of our closest allies, which is a relationship that all three of our governments are capable of sharing with one another. It is important that we continue to support Israel’s right to function as a sovereign government while applying the same policy in regards to Palestine. Along with our continued support of Israel we must work at strengthening our relationship with Palestine, and provide diplomatic negotiations between their two governments in order to bridge the divide between them so there can be an environment that promotes tolerance leading to peace. The Palestinians deserves to be treated with the same respect and dignity we have shown Israel. While with the understanding that both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments have made some bad decisions that resulted in both sides suffering harm and damages the road to peace isn’t paved with continued bloodshed it is paved through the carefully mediated negotiations of one’s trusted allies. We must be that ally to both Israel and Palestine if there is to ever be peace in the Middle East.”

APR: Should we overthrow the Maduro regime in Venezuela?

Countryman: “There is a huge difference between a government that implements a variety of social programs to assist its citizens and a government that uses those social programs as a way to mislead it’s citizens in order to rise to power in order to set up an authoritarian dictatorship. Every form of government has the potential to be corrupted and infuriated by con artists looking for ways to syphon money off the backs of the working class. If you don’t believe me then just look at our current government. It is filled with these types of crooks that need to pack their bags.”

“I say all that because much of what we hear in regards to what happens in other countries is made up of some facts, some propaganda and carefully implemented lies in order to push a certain belief that the powers that be want the people to subscribe to,” Countryman continued. “That’s one significant reason why, when the choice to intervene on another country’s behalf is decided, that the decision be made intelligently and responsibly. This type of decision isn’t one that should be left up to one person’s opinion or judgment. It should be a carefully evaluated decision that is discussed among our elected officials before a final decision is made.”

APR: Can we balance the federal budget? And should we raise the retirement age to receive entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (the chief drivers of the budget deficit) to balance the budget?

Countryman: “Yes, it is possible to balance the federal budget if and when we put restrictions into play on the amount of government spending on unnecessary programs and departments. We have way too much revenue being used to fund the pork filled bills that come out of Washington. I understand that each senator and each congressman have needs within their districts but there’s a difference between what is necessary and needed verses that which they merely want.”

“As far as Social Security, along with other entitlements, raising the retirement age is the worst thing we could do,” Countryman said. “Many citizens have worked all their life paying into the system so that they will be able to live comfortably when they become unable to work. What we need to do is crack down on the abusive misuse of our government resources. Although the entitlements you mention do contribute to the deficit, they are not the only factors that dictate the amount of debt our country has. What has to be done is for the congress and Senate to sit down and systematically pour through the budgets of our entitlement programs, carefully examine other departments spending budgets and then start the process to reallocate funds from areas of government where tax dollars are being wasted and apply those tax dollars to our entitlement programs.”

APR: Should immigrants be eligible for federal benefits like Social Security, Medicare, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance, SSI, unemployment, student loans and Medicaid?

Countryman: “I believe that any immigrant who works in their community, here in our country, who receives income on which they pay taxes have a right to certain benefits. If they are here working, on a work visa or otherwise, and they have income tax withheld then they are contributing to the system and are entitled to the same benefits as anyone else who contributes to the system through the taxes they pay.”

“As far as humanitarian efforts I believe that we have a moral obligation to assist those who seek refuge and safety within our borders, and that some level of assistance is needed and justified when it comes to ensuring that those immigrants to our country are treated with respect, dignity and that we make every effort to contribute to their health and safety while offering them a pathway to citizenship,” Countryman explained. “However if an immigrant is here illegally, with no intentions on becoming a citizen of our country or contributing to the system through the payment of taxes, they should not be eligible to receive benefits from the government. This of course does not excuse us from having to treat them with respect and dignity and allow them due process when deciding the best possible option to eliminating the problem of illegal immigration into our country.”

APR: Would you support a ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns (sometimes called an assault weapons ban) or is such a ban unconstitutional under the Second Amendment?

Countryman: “First let me be clear. I believe in common sense laws. Laws are meant to protect our fellow countryman. Just because the 2nd Amendment is interpreted by many to grant citizens the right to own a firearm doesn’t mean that it should be interpreted to allow citizens the unbridled right to own or possess just any type of firearm. For example, we allow citizens to buy and possess fireworks, which are classified as explosive devices, but we don’t allow the citizens to just walk around with hand grenades or dynamite. There is something called common sense when it comes to writing laws, interpreting laws and enforcing laws. That’s why I believe in common sense gun laws.”

“I am generally not opposed to allowing law abiding citizens who are of sound mind to own standard shotguns, rifles or handguns that they use for sport or personal protection,” Countryman added. “I am however, strongly opposed to citizens being allowed to possess or own assault styled weapons, similar to those used by our military and law enforcement; and I would support a ban on those types of assault weapons. But I do need to point out the importance of working with law enforcement agencies to develop more effective training programs that focus on de-escalation techniques, more oversight into the law enforcement agencies to prevent corruption. Also implement the use of more non-lethal weapons that can be used to stop or subdue aggressively violent and dangerous individuals. Deadly force should only be someone’s very last defensive option, and only after all other options have been evaluated and exhausted.”

“I have a new website up where anyone can go to learn a little more about me and my platform,” Countryman concluded. “Plus on the welcome page there’s a short survey that allows visitors to share what issues are important to them and how well of a job they feel our elected officials are doing. This survey will help me know what issues are the most important to them and will allow me the opportunity to better serve them in any upcoming political endeavors. Everyone can check my page out by visiting, www.rethink-alabama.com. I can also be reached by email at [email protected]

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is not seeking a sixth term in Congress.

The major party primaries will be held on March 3.

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Elections

First presidential debate is tonight

Tuesday’s debate, set to begin at 8 p.m. CST, will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, are preparing for Tuesday night’s debate.

Tuesday’s debate will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace. The debate will be at 8 p.m. CST and is being hosted at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Due to COVID-19, the two candidates and the moderator will not shake hands. There will be a small number of ticketed guests inside the debate hall, along with debate officials, crews and TV network anchors including Fox News.

Trump has prepared with help from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Major Rudy Giuliani but has chosen not to have traditional lengthy practice sessions.

Trump is suggesting he doesn’t want to overdo it.

“Sometimes you can go too much in that stuff,” Trump told reporters on Sunday.

Biden has been holding mock debate sessions with senior adviser Bob Bauer and top aides, according to CBS News.

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“I’m prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he’s failed and why I think the answers I have to proceed will help the American people, the American economy and make us safer internationally,” Biden said.

“The president prepares by being president,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh reportedly said. “And by regularly facing hostile news media. That’s pretty good practice by any measure.”

The debate as to whether Trump should have appointed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will almost certainly come up.

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“Joe Biden spent a lot of time in his basement to study up,” said Lara Trump, the president’s campaign adviser and daughter-in-law. “He’s been in this game for 47 years. I assume he’ll do OK. Quite frankly, the bar has been lowered so much for Joe Biden that if he stays awake for the whole thing it’s like maybe he won.”

The two candidates are running very different campaigns.

From March until the last week in August, according to news reports, Biden made no in-person speeches or campaign appearances. Biden’s events since have been rare and attended by just a few invited guests.

Trump, on the other hand, has been holding mass campaign rallies. Trump has held 14 in-person rallies in September including in swing states New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Minnesota with multiple trips to Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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Elections

Sewell: Confirming Barrett before the election would undermine Supreme Court’s legitimacy

“The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise,” Sewell said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (via Office of Rep. Terri Sewell)

Saturday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) released a statement claiming that President Donald J. Trump’s (R) nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Associate Justice on the Supreme Court was tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans and that confirming Judge Barrett would undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court nomination by President Trump today, with the 2020 presidential election only 38 days away, denies the American people a voice in this very important decision,” Rep. Sewell said. “The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise not to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election. This standard articulated by Senate Republicans was applied against President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland eight months before the 2016 presidential election. This blatant power grab by Trump and Senate Republicans is especially disturbing given that the voting process has already begun with hundreds of thousands of voters having cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.”

“Fairness and comity demand that the Senate not confirm any vacancy on the Supreme Court until the American people have chosen the next president,” Sewell concluded. “To do otherwise, I believe would undermine the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Friday before Barrett was even nominated, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) announced that he will not support any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court for the vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Jones stated, “I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election.”

“Justice Ginsburg was a role model and an inspiration,” Sen. Jones said. She was a brilliant and tireless advocate, a champion for fairness and equality, and her efforts have brought our country closer to the ideals upon which it was founded.”

“It is a poor reflection of the state of our national politics that, just hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we were thrust into a divisive partisan fight over her successor, denying the nation the time to mourn this extraordinary American’s death,” Jones continued. “Just weeks from a national election, we are confronting a blatant power grab by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President that will undermine the court and subvert the will of the American people.”

“Just four years ago, Leader McConnell held open a Supreme Court seat for ten months before a presidential election because he said time and again that, in an election year, we must let the American people decide,” Jones said. “If confirming a Supreme Court justice ten months prior to a presidential election would have denied the American people a voice, then isn’t he now denying the American people a voice by rushing to confirm a justice just weeks before a presidential election?”

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“I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES,” Jones continued. “This is especially true given the urgent legislative work we have yet to do. Leader McConnell should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people by bringing a new bipartisan COVID-19 relief package up for a vote. We also need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act to support our military. We need to pass our annual funding bills instead of kicking the can down the road with yet another costly continuing resolution. We need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has languished in this Senate, in order to protect the right of all Americans to vote and participate in our democracy.”

“Consequently, under these circumstances, I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election,” Jones explained. We should not force the country into a brutal and divisive partisan confirmation fight while Americans are already voting to choose the next President. If President Trump is re-elected, I will evaluate any pending or future nominee on their merits and vote for or against the nominee based solely on their qualifications.”

Trump has already appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Barack H. Obama (D) only got to select two of his nominees to the court. When conservative icon Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 – the previous election year, Republicans led by McConnell and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) blocked Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland.

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Jones also voted against previous Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican general election opponent.

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Sen. Doug Jones won’t support SCOTUS nominee before Nov. 3 election

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (VIA DOUG JONES CAMPAIGN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday said he would not support any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court before the outcome of the Nov. 3 election is determined. 

Speaking during a livestreamed briefing, Jones said that while Republicans appear to have enough votes to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he will not be a party to denying the people a voice in the process in the election of the next president “in just under 44 days.” 

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg, who on Friday became the first woman, and first Jewish person, to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. 

Several Republicans who voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than 10 months before the 2016 election have reversed course, and now say they support Trump nominating a selection with election day just a little more than a month away. 

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said. “In fact, I believe that the level and intensity of hypocrisy being displayed by Senator McConnell and the president, with regard to the rush to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s successor, is unmatched in the history of our constitutional government.” 

Jones said what McConnell and other Republicans should be focusing on instead is getting another round of much-needed COVID-19 aid to small businesses and people impacted by the pandemic. 

“Rather than pushing this confirmation to the top of the Senate calendar, the majority leader should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people. We should pass a new bipartisan COVID-19 stimulus package to give Americans and businesses the relief that they desperately need, and that economists say if required to shore up the economy now,” Jones said. 

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Jones expressed concern as well for what medical experts are warning could be a new spike in COVID-19 nationwide. 

“There could be an even greater urgency, if our health care professionals’ warnings come to pass,” Jones said. “And that is as temperature drops and people go indoors that this virus spikes, and we see another surge.” 

Asked why his opponent, Tommy Tuberville, won’t debate Jones, he said, “It’s pretty simple. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  

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“He has no clue. He is Coach Clueless,” Jones said. 

Jones noted that when asked recently on his thoughts on extending the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, Tuberville stumbled through an answer that indicated he wasn’t sure what the Voting Rights Act was.

“He had no earthly idea,” Jones said. 

Jones said Tuberville isn’t going to debate him because Tuberville doesn’t want to talk about issues.

“He doesn’t want to talk about a plan. His plan is simply this: Whatever Donald Trump says, I’m good,” Jones said, “and if Donald Trump says or does something that is not good, it’s crickets coming from Coach Tuberville.” 

Jones noted that after multiple news outlets, including Fox News, confirmed reporting that Trump had said disparaging things about veterans who died in combat, Tuberville has not spoken out against Trump’s comments. 

Jennifer Griffin, senior national security correspondent for Fox News, reported that she has spoken to senior U.S. officials who backed up reporting by The Atlantic, and said Trump said of the Vietnam War “anyone who went was a sucker.” 

“He has not said a thing about what was confirmed by Fox News about the president’s comment,” Jones said of Tuberville. “That’s just disgraceful.”

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Elections

Merrill gives guidance on straight party, write-in voting

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued guidance Wednesday on straight party and write-in voting.

“Voters who wish to vote straight party for all of the Democratic or Republican candidates on their ballot may do so by filling in the bubble next to their party preference at the top of their ballot,” Merrill explained in a statement.

“If a voter wishes to vote for any candidate outside of the selected party, however, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the preferred candidate’s name. In doing so, the candidate(s) voted on outside of the voter’s designated party ballot will receive the vote for that particular race.

In addition, if a voter wishes to write-in a candidate, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the box marked ‘Write-in’ and then printing the name of the preferred candidate on the designated line.

Write-in votes must be hand-written and not stamped or otherwise artificially applied to the ballot.”

Sample ballots for the Nov. 3 general election are available online.

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