This week, a magical envelope lands in your mailbox.

Inside nestles a simple piece of paper with extraordinary powers. Handle it correctly, and it could make your life better. But if you screw it up? It could bring untold suffering to you and your neighbors.

A ballot is a scary thing to waste.

Two years ago, disaffected voters looked at their ballots and asked, "What difference does it make if Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is president?" Now we know the answer. The nation is run by a corrupt bully who sucks up to tyrants, abuses the vulnerable and inspires bands of ethno-nationalist thugs.

The Nov. 6 election may carry less global significance—but it will have a more direct impact on Oregonians.

A tightly contested race for governor will set the state's agenda on schools, climate and housing. Democrats are jockeying for a super-majority in Salem that would allow them to raise taxes without a popular vote. Ballot measures could restrict abortion rights and overturn a law that protects immigrants from deportation. Powerful corporate interests are bent on making sweeping tax policy at the ballot box—always a dangerous idea.

But there's a way out of this maze.

We offer a path to stabilizing a state and city that have been adrift for two years. We've examined nearly three dozen races and ballot measures in the Portland metro area, and made hard decisions in each. (We don't endorse in races where only one candidate appears in the Voters' Pamphlet.)

We invited the candidates to answer questions about their track records and proposals. We also asked each candidate to confess their deepest fear—we wanted to hear what keeps them awake at night.

We know what keeps us awake: apathy. When voters take democracy for granted, people like Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) take over and we get a lifetime supply of U.S. Supreme Court justices like Brett Kavanaugh.

If you are satisfied with the status quo, leave your ballot unmarked. Otherwise, make your statement about who should be in City Hall, the governor's mansion and Congress.

There's reason for hope. Many of the people we met this campaign cycle renewed our belief that elections can bring about positive change. This may be a dark timeline. But don't be scared. Instead, pick up that ballot and vote.