Recallers won at least one war of the words.
We can make that statement based on a study of letters to the editor and opinion columns from readers between the official start of the recall process - April 5 - and the date petitions were turned in - June 11.
The results of our research reflect only letters to the editor and opinion columns published in the print editions of the Coeur d'Alene Press and the Post Falls Press. They do not include opinion pieces that were published exclusively on the newspaper's website, nor do results include the many thousands of words readers posted online as comments to letters to the editor, opinion columns or news stories. Most of the latter were done anonymously.
We conducted an electronic archive search between April 5 and June 11 of every letter or column that included the word "recall." If the letter or column did not include the word "recall," or if it referred to a recall election elsewhere, we omitted it from our tabulation.
Many letters about a recall were published before the petition-gathering process was launched, but we opted to include only those printed in the official window of petition collection, when petition-gatherers were out doing their thing.
Here are the numbers.
NEUTRAL: Two letters to the editor (427 words) and three columns (1,781 words) from writers fell into this category. The writers did not take a firm for or against stance, but rather, presented other options or commented on the recall attempt's impact in some other way. TOTAL WORDS: 2,208
AGAINST THE RECALL: We published 28 letters to the editor (5,869 words) and four columns (3,625 words) from writers who clearly oppose the recall effort. TOTAL WORDS: 9,494
FOR THE RECALL: During the petition-gathering process, The Press printed 31 letters to the editor (7,899 words) and seven columns (6,279 words) supporting the recall effort. TOTAL WORDS: 14,178
So what do these numbers mean? We'll leave that up to readers to decide. But two things do stand out. One is the sheer volume of published commentary on the subject: 75 separate submissions totaling 25,880 words. That's a lot of open-air discussion. Also, the fact that both sides had just about an equal number of letters published suggests a nearly equal divide of camps in our community.
If enough signatures on petitions are verified to call forth a recall election, we'll start the entire opinion publication process over. To date, we've been accepting only one letter to the editor or, as space permits, one My Turn column from any individual expressing his or her views on the recall. We'll wipe the slate clean if an election is imminent and invite a new round of perspectives, but stick to the rule of one per person.