Electronic Democracy is an expression of the information age.
According to Lewis A. Friedland, "the concept of 'electronic democracy'
connotes a radically new form of democratic practice modified by new
information technologies."1 Through the technology of the
Internet, people have greater access to government agencies and
information. They also have the ability to disseminate that information
rapidly to large numbers of people - thus promoting grass-roots
organizations and activism.
In his senior thesis, The Network Nation Revisited, David
Belson notes that "Grass-roots political movements, thanks to the
electronic interconnection of millions of people, are now more powerful
than ever before. Supporters of candidates, as well as the candidates
themselves, can now share information in a matter of minutes."2
Obviously this has the potential for both positive and negative results.3 People voting on a whim, from their living rooms, might not be the best way to run a country. On the other hand, informed voters are the glue that holds our representative democracy together. As James Madison wrote, "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prelude to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."4
The Kennedy School Online (KSGOPIN - http://ksgwww.harvard.edu/~ksgpress/opinhome.htm) is a great place
to begin your electronic journey into politics. This Web page is
divided into twelve major areas: Elections; Parties, Candidates;
Federal Government; State/Local Government; Think Tanks; Advocacy;
International; Academia; More Politics; Politics of the Net; Reporters'
Resources; Good Directories. Each area, in turn, is broken up into
sub-areas, with links to just about any sort of political information
that is available on the World Wide Web. If you followed all the links
listed, it would probably take you the better part of a day.
Another good jumping off point is The National Political index
The National Political Index is sponsored by Americans Who Work for a
Living (AWWL), a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) organization. This
site has links to just about any kind of political information you can
think of - federal, state, local and even "un-elected Beltway VIP's."
For a look at electronic democracy at work, try the California
1996 Primary Election Server (http://ca96.election.digital.com/). It is a good example of what
can be done to keep voters informed and involved.
An entire electronic "community" dedicated to the concept of
electronic democracy can be found at Democracy Place (http://democracyplace.org/). According to their welcome message,
"This is your town on the Internet for civic journalism and citizen
participation in the public policy debate. Here you'll find the
information you need to understand the issues of this campaign year -
stories, interviews, polls, and much more. You'll find tools you can
use to make your voice heard. You'll find a community of other citizens
who want to get involved. You'll find outstanding examples of civic
journalism projects in Democracy Forum, where ordinary people, not
politicians, set the agenda."
Another site that is involved with electronic democracy at the
community level is the Civic Practices Network (http://www.cpn.org/cpn.html). According to their Web site, "Civic
Practices Network (CPN) is a collaborative and nonpartisan project
bringing together a diverse array of organizations and perspectives
within the new citizenship movement. We share a commitment to bring
practical methods for public problem solving into every community and
institutional setting in America."
There are lists of Congressional E-mail addresses all over the
Internet. The two listed below are Web-based forms and allow you to
find out who your representatives are, in case you don't remember.
If those aren't enough for you, links to similar Web sites can be
If you're looking for specific information to better inform yourself about candidates for an upcoming election, the sites listed below should be of help to you.
Quite a few people want to be president this year. Below are the Web
pages of the candidates who will appear on most ballots.
If you're interested in keeping up with the latest opinion polls on
these candidates (or at least the first 3), the Gallup Organization
is providing that service at http://www.gallup.com/news/index.html.
Well almost - you can download the National Mail Voter Registration
form, available from the Federal Election Commission (http://www.fec.gov/votregis/vr.htm).5 If you really want to
register on-line, check out MCI's "first comprehensive online voter
registration site on the World Wide Web" (http://netvote96.mci.com/register.html). The same caveats for the
Federal Election Commission form exist for on-line registration. If
your permanent residence is in North Dakota or Wyoming, you can"t
If you still haven't gotten enough of politics on the net and want
more, you might be interested in the Elections and Electoral Systems
Web page. Information about elections and electroal systems world-wide
can be found there at http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/po/election.htm. Happy browsing!
1 "Electronic Democracy and the New Citizenship" (http://www.cpn.org/sections/new_citizenship/e-dem&new_citizenship1.html)
3 See "Cyberhoax: Lie spreads on Internet,"
for a negative example of electronic democracy.
4 As quoted in "The Future of News" by Howard Rheingold (http://www.rtndf.org/rtndf/new/reingold.htm)
5 If your permanent residence is in the following states, you could
have a problem.
If you have problems or questions about this server, please
contactme as soon as possible. You can send mail to the following