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I voted buttons, State Journal generic file photo

When I drive by Madison's Labor Temple at the corner of South Park Street and Wingra Drive at election time there are always dozens of campaign signs planted on the grounds backing the candidates local labor feels will do the best job for the working folks.

This year is no exception. The signs have been up for several weeks now and like many others across the country will be taken down after Tuesday's election.

The signs are perhaps a primitive way to back a candidate, but it's about all the many small local unions can afford to make their views heard. The rich folks, after all, are spending tens of millions on fancy TV spots. But the U.S. Supreme Court tells us money equals free speech so rich people's spending can't be restricted no matter how it drowns out the voices of most Americans.

In truth, though, the loudest voice of all is the one that is heard at the ballot box. That's where those costly and often-misleading attack ads financed by special interests hoping to benefit from the election results can be met head on by average Americans struggling to get a fair shake.

But it takes some studying, which is what the Founding Fathers expected American citizens to do at election time.

It's why they were sticklers about public education. It's why they believed in the role of a free press. It's why they encouraged debates and chautauquas to argue issues and publicly make cases for new laws or call for the elimination of those that weren't serving the people well.

The founders were nearly unanimous in their belief that an informed electorate was necessary if the American democratic experiment was to work.

They didn't see how electioneering would evolve over the years, especially the advent of mass communication and social media and the proliferation of misleading ads and false claims. But their premise still holds true: Voters can cut through the lies and character assassinations if they pay attention, stay on top of the issues and have a good idea what kind of governor or senator or legislator each candidate will be.

Our editorial board has made our suggestions. We don't believe that Leah Vukmir would be the kind of senator who would look out for the public interest in everything from health care to immigration. We believe that Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin on too many fronts — roads, education and health care — during his terms in office. We believe that Brad Schimel has been overtly partisan in his tenure as attorney general.

We believe that Sen. Tammy Baldwin should stay in office and that Tony Evers would make a much better governor, while Josh Kaul would shine in the AG's office.

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Once you look at our rationale you might agree. But, if not, that's OK too.

What's important is that you know the candidates and then go out and vote. We all owe that much to our nation and the future of democracy.

Let's put those inexpensive yard signs and those costly TV ads on equal footing.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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