FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 4, 1994
CONTACT: Kim Alexander
CALIFORNIA VOTING INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET
The California Voter Foundation announced today the availability of the California Online Voter Guide, an electronic resource of voting information accessible to the public free of charge on the Internet. Pacific Bell has donated a storage site for the information in a specialized computer called a "server". Users may access the guide by using the "gopher" tool and typing "gopher.kn.pacbell.com" (no parentheses).
The Online Voter Guide contains a wealth of information provided by California statewide candidates, the California Journal, and the Center for Civic Literacy. Candidates in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate and Superintendent of Public Instruction have supplied biographies, press releases, endorsements, speeches and position papers, either electronically or on computer disk. The guide also includes job descriptions that detail the duties, salaries and past and present officeholders of each statewide office. CVF will be seeking and uploading information from other statewide candidates over the next two weeks.
"The Online Voter Guide provides statewide candidates with an extraordinary opportunity to get their message out to thousands of voters and students at no cost to the campaigns. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved," said Kim Alexander, Executive Director of the California Voter Foundation (CVF). "Most voters want to make informed electoral decisions, and every campaign develops materials such as biographies, press releases and speeches, but they simply can't afford to mail this material to California's 14 million registered voters. We all know that campaigns should be longer on substance and shorter on sloganeering, but the truth is that candidates have never had a communication medium that allows them to broadly disseminate significant information in a cost-effective manner - until now." Experts estimate that there are over one million Internet users in California.
"New communication technologies allow for fast, inexpensive and widespread dissemination of information, and may, in the long run, decrease the cost of campaigning by lessening a candidate's reliance on more expensive and less efficient communication mediums, such as direct mail and television," Alexander said.
The California Voter Foundation developed the Online Voter Guide in cooperation with Pacific Bell's Knowledge Network Gateway program, which is testing a service to provide California students with high-speed computer access to the Internet and other education resources. "The Online Voter Guide is being incorporated into the educational curriculums of 19 Knowledge Network Gateway schools throughout California, involving an estimated 10,000 students," said Austene Hall, Knowledge Network Gateway Product Manager. "Pacific Bell is pleased to help students use new information technologies to enhance their educational experience while expanding their knowledge of the election process," Hall added.
The Online Voter Guide will also be used in the Kids Voting programs in Sacramento and San Jose, which introduce students to the electoral process by holding mock elections. "Kids Voting teaches students about the rights and responsibilities of voting. We are promoting the Online Voter Guide as a resource for schools to use in conjunction with our curriculum," said Ken Loman, Executive Director of Kids Voting California.
"California's continuous decline in voter turnout is partly due to the apathy of young Californians," Alexander said, "If we want to boost voter turnout in the future, we must begin now by teaching California's students how to be informed and conscientious voters," she added.
In the last twelve years, the percentage of the 18-29 year olds that comprise the California electorate has shrunk by fifty percent. In 1982, 18 percent of voting Californians fell into the 18-29 age bracket; by 1994 that percentage had dropped to nine percent. "Young Californians may not be reading the newspaper or watching the evening news, but they have a higher propensity to use computers compared to most other people. We can now reach a large segment of non-voters simply by approaching them in a medium they use and understand," Alexander said.
Evidence of the demand for on-line civic information can be found in a recent Macworld survey, which indicates that the public wants to use the information superhighway for civic and educational purposes. The survey found that the highest-ranking service the public hopes the highway will deliver is the ability to vote on-line. "Another advantage of online communication is that the information is there when the public wants it; voters who miss important newspaper articles or television reports will now have another way to become informed," Alexander said.
CVF is also promoting the Online Voter Guide through public libraries, which will soon be installing 177 computer terminals dedicated solely for public access to the Internet. "The State Library wants to increase access to non-partisan voting information. They funded the development of an Easy Reader Voter Guide which condenses the Secretary of State's Ballot Pamphlet into 16 easy-to-skim pages," said Susan Clark, Executive Director of the Center for Civic Literacy. "We are pleased to have the Easy Reader guide included in the Online Voter Guide because it provides a much broader distribution of this material. Our research also shows that voters want election information in a variety of formats that are suited to their own lifestyles and schedules," Clark added.
The Online Voter Guide was funded through contributions from Oracle, the Intel Foundation, Pacific Telesis, Pacific Bell, Pacific Gas and Electric, GTE, Apple, AT&T and Macworld. "The California Voter Foundation is thankful for the generous support and contributions we've received for this project," said Michael Twombly, CVF President. "Pacific Bell has performed a tremendous public service for California voters and students by providing technical support and an Internet server for this project. We are also grateful to the California Journal and its talented writers for providing us with their insightful and informative election articles," Twombly said. "For the students who will be using our guide to learn about California elections, it is important to provide them with some balance and objective analysis about these candidates and measures," he added.
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. Comments, questions and feedback about the Online Voter Guide should be sent via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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