Local News

Participate in the Political Process Online

Posted October 13, 1998

— Politicians have been campaigning worldwide on the web for some time. But with millions of people now online, candidates and their parties find an even greater audience on the Internet.

Voters can register online using NetVote, and they can find valuable information on WRAL OnLine.

Searching for "elections online" generated hundreds of sites. Web White and Blue is a new, non-partisan directory of sites that makes searching easy. The site comes from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard.

"I don't think there's much put out on like what their stance or what their platform is on different issues," one voter said.

Web White and Blue takes you with a click to issue-related sites likeProject Vote Smart. Creativity is not the strong point of most political sites; interactivity is most important to voters.

Dr. David Garson, a political scientist at N.C. State University, says voters get to express their own views online.

"They feel like they're part of it which is something you can't really do with one-way television or one-way newspapers," Garson said.

Candidates have their own sites but remember, theyowntheir sites.

"It's going to be partisan if you're going for a candidate or people that are promoting a candidate," one voter notes.

There are lots of other web pages to help you make decisions about how you'll vote.

Web sites allow everyone to have a voice in the political process. Garson says the sites are "trying to kind of counter you folks in the media a little bit by having their own media which everyone can afford and support and propagate."

These Internet political sites are inexpensive, and with more work, they will likely become more influential with voters.

"In the future we're going to see a lot of really creative activity where one's reaching out to activists, one's reaching out to the public," Garson predicts.

Some political observers say the web is already an important campaign tool while others, most of them Internet insiders, say politicians have a long way to go to be effective on the Internet.

For years the Internet has been a place for personal expression, and backers of that ideal don't cotton to persuasive rhetoric from politicians.

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