High Tech Voter Information


In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York voted to expand its support of Internet information for voters interested in the political process in the belief that voters are anxious for straight information on the issues minus the spin. As the 2000 election cycle gears up, three organizations dedicated to providing nonpartisan voter information about national and local candidates on the web have been awarded a total of $700,000 to expand their Internet communication capacities for the next election cycle.

"I can't think of a better way to express what Carnegie stands for," said Vartan Gregorian, President of the Corporation, "because an informed constituency is the very heart of a healthy democracy. In the next century, we believe the Internet will serve as a central point of contact for the majority of voters and we at Carnegie want to be on the ground floor of strong efforts to communicate fair, serious campaign information directly to the electorate."Project Vote Smart (a program of the Center for National Independence in Politics) and Democracy Network (a project of the Center for Governmental Studies that is being expanded in a joint venture with the Public Agenda Foundation and the League of Women Voters Education Fund) were both active in the last election cycle and received Carnegie support. The Freedom Channel is a new undertaking by Douglas L. Bailey and Roger Craver, founders of the National Journal Group's online briefing, The Hotline, and is a first-time grantee.

"The Corporation has been a long time supporter of efforts to strengthen American democracy," said Gerri Mannion, chair of Carnegie's Democracy and Special Projects Program. "These grants target the Internet because we believe that when voters can control the amount and type of information they come in contact with, they will be more inclined to participate in the political process. These three voter information Web sites are free, nonpartisan and available on demand. They are one way voters can cut through the spin of modern campaigns that sometimes overwhelm the process."

Project Vote Smart, which can be found at www.vote-smart.org, offers access to candidates biographies, voting records, campaign financing and performance evaluations. In this election cycle, the Montana-based nonprofit will link voters to 13,000 candidates nationwide and, during peak months, expects to serve nearly 2 million users a day, twice the amount served in 1998.

Democracy Network, known as DNet, can be found atwww.dnet.org . The new partnership with the Public Agenda and the League will enable DNet to expand coverage of candidates from 1,000 in 22 states in the last election cycle to over 3,000 federal and local candidates in the 2000 cycle. The new and improved site, to be launched in December, will offer voters the chance to track campaign issues and provide candidates for the Presidency or the local school board the opportunity to interact with opponents on the specifics of an issue. Voters will be able to see how a candidate for office answers a specific issue question as well as how he or she responds to an opponent's answer to the question - a sort of virtual debate.

Freedom Channel, launched this Fall, can be found atwww.freedomchannel.com. Besides candidates' information, the site is offering video-on-demand. Freedom Channel is working with polling firms to highlight the issues most important to voters and is offering federal and gubernatorial candidates the chance to record 90-second video statements addressing those issues.

"Because voters are often disenchanted or overwhelmed by the political process, our main goal is to support organizations which link voters directly to what candidates are saying about the issues of the day," said Mannion. "We also believe these Internet links to the public provide candidates with the opportunity to register and disseminate their views to a broad audience. We believe these democratic experiments have the potential to decrease campaign costs for the candidates who use them."


Project Vote Smart: Richard Kimball, Executive Director, Center for National Independence in Politics, One Common Ground, Philipsburg, MT 59858, (406) 859-8683. www.vote-smart.org

Democracy Network: Tracy Westen, President, Center for Governmental Studies, 10951 West Pico Boulevard, Suite 120, Los Angeles, CA 90064, (310) 470-6590; Deborah Wadsworth, Executive Director, Public Agenda Foundation, 6 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016-0112, (212) 686-6610; and Jane Gruenebaum, Executive Director, League of Women Voters Education Fund, 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-4508, (202) 526-3908. www.dnet.org

Freedom Channel: Douglas L. Bailey, President, Freedom Channel, Inc., 1233 20th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 785-5920. www.freedomchannel.com