With the May 16 primary election right around the corner, it’s time to publish our guidelines regarding political letters to the editor and the Pilot’s election coverage.

The Pilot will not accept letters or guest commentaries from the candidates themselves. The reasons are simple:

First, such letters are rarely candid discussions of important issues and they usually read like the campaign advertisements they are.

Second, by giving away free space on the editorial page, we, out of fairness, would have to extend the same opportunity to every candidate and we simply don’t have the room to accommodate everyone.

The Pilot has and will continue to provide coverage of the candidates in the contested races to help voters make informed decisions. This coverage includes notices of events at which a candidate or candidates will be speaking, as well as public forums featuring the candidates.

Candidates will have opportunities to communicate to the public via candidate profiles written by Pilot reporters — these profiles will be published before voters received ballots in the mail. Also, our reporters will be checking into candidates’ backgrounds and campaign finances, and writing stories if and when necessary.

Any letters, political or not, that exceed the 250-word limit will be edited. This will help assure our readers that nearly every letter we receive will be published in a timely manner. However, we may not publish some letters if we feel an organized campaign is attempting to flood the opinion pages with letters for a particular candidate.

Likewise, we will not publish letters that make serious charges against a candidate, especially close to election day, when there is limited opportunity for the Pilot to investigate the claims or for the candidate to respond. We urge writers to keep the discussion civil – nasty letters and personal attacks will not be published.

These guidelines are not meant to limit free speech, but to facilitate a broad-based public discussion that might help readers cast informed votes.