FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 1995
CONTACT: Kim Alexander
REPORT FINDS VOTERS VALUE ONLINE ELECTION INFORMATION
SACRAMENTO --- Today the California Voter Foundation (CVF) released the findings of "Democracy Online", an evaluation of the organization's 1994 California Online Voter Guide. The report summarizes the content and usage rates of the non-partisan site, housed on Pacific Bell's Internet server.
The guide was developed by CVF to promote voter education by utilizing the online medium. Statewide candidates were invited to contribute platforms, speeches, biographies, press releases, and endorsements. The guide also included job descriptions for each statewide office, California Journal magazine stories, newspaper endorsements, the "Easy Reader Voter Guide", and access to election night results and other voter education sites on the Internet.
According to the report:
"The success of our project disproves the widespread, cynical view of an apathetic electorate and demonstrates that, in fact, many voters will seek out the information they need to make informed electoral choices," said Kim Alexander, CVF Executive Director. "Our efforts show that there is a market for online civic information, and CVF will continue developing the online medium as a tool for promoting civic participation and an enriched public spirit in California," she added.
- The California Online Voter Guide registered over 14,000 logins between October 4 and Election Day, and over 36,000 documents were retrieved.
- 32 statewide candidates contributed original material to the guide, representing a participation rate of 90 percent among major-party candidates and 70 percent among minor-party candidates.
- Nearly half of the identifiable users, or participants, accessed the guide through an educational institution; one-third logged in from commercial sites; twelve percent logged in from networks; the remaining nine percent of identifiable users logged in from organization, government, or military sites.
- Participants preferred documents such as biographies, endorsement lists and platforms over press releases and speeches. Job descriptions and news analyses were also popular with participants.
Alexander also noted that the email comments received from participants were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. "Many participants expressed a deep appreciation for the availability of the information and convenient access," Alexander said. "No other communication tool allows people to access such a vast amount of information, from all over the globe, day or night. This feature makes the online medium tremendously convenient in a busy world where time is limited." The guide was particularly helpful to voters living outside of California, who otherwise would have had little access to election information. Another group that benefits from the online medium is younger voters, who are more likely to use online services, and whose voter participation levels have been declining in recent years.
"Providing voters with convenient and comprehensive election information gives voters the confidence that's needed to make the act of voting a meaningful gesture. The California Online Voter Guide is one powerful example of how the online medium is already connecting people with information that increases citizen participation and can result in a healthier democracy where more citizens are engaged in their own governance," Alexander said.
The California Online Voter Guide was one of just a handful on online voter education efforts in 1994, and CVF is now planning the 1996 online guides, which will expand the amount of information available to better serve California voters' comprehensive needs. "We expect online voter education services to flourish in 1996, and hope that others will learn from our experience and develop even better non-partisan, online voter education projects for their countries, states and communities," Alexander said.
The guide is still housed on Pacific Bell's Internet server, and can be accessed via gopher at: gopher.kn.pacbell.com, or through America Online's Internet Center in the "Government and Politics" gopher folder. The California Voter Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 organization founded in 1989 by former California Secretary of State March Fong Eu. Online Voter Guide project donors include Oracle, Intel Foundation, Pacific Bell, Pacific Telesis, California Teachers Association, PG&E, GTE, Apple, AT&T, and Macworld.
Hard copies of "Democracy Online" are available for $10, and can be ordered by contacting CVF by phone, (916) 737-6270, or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. An electronic version of the report will also be available soon, free of charge; if you would like to receive a copy via email, send a message to the above address.
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