Kim Alexander,

       The image map problem is solved! Brian, our part-time technologist, set new coordinates for the map, and now we just have to copy and paste it into our pages.
       Cross that one off my ever-growing to-do list. What’s next? Rescuing American politics from itself? Pretty big job. Fortunately, CVF isn’t the only group utilizing the Internet as a tool for improving civic participation. There are lots of groups doing great work online– Project Vote Smart, the League of Women Voters, and the Benton Foundation, to name just a few.
       Through this powerful tool, we now have the potential to shape our political process. But there are other people on the scene now who are trying to adapt the Internet to their cynical world of political manipulation and sound bites. Until recently, most political consultants sat on the sidelines. As members of the boomer generation, they simply didn’t “get it.” But now we’re seeing polls that show, for example, that 42 percent of California’s registered voters use e-mail. Political consultants simply can’t ignore statistics like that. They’re still confused, but they’re savvy enough to realize that we are, in fact, in the throes of a communication revolution, that they’d better make damn sure their client has a Web presence.
       But it doesn’t stop there. Some consultants are venturing further, testing ideas such as electronic slate mailers–or “e-slates,” as they’ve come to be known. These people are harvesting Web sites and newsgroups for the e-mail addresses of hundreds of thousands of California voters, whom they plan to spam with propaganda from the candidates who have paid to be on their slate.
       The people behind the e-slates insist it isn’t spam. But I’ve seen enough from this state’s political consultants to know it would not be unwise to expect the worst. You just have to take one look at the ads filling our airwaves and the direct mail entering our mailboxes to know that the people behind political campaigns in this state will stop at nothing to win, and really don’t give a shit about what they do to our political culture in the process.
       I visited one site today that has a URL very similar to ours (“www.calvoterguide.com,” rather than “www.calvoter.org”). But its voter guide, unlike ours, shows you only the names of the Republican candidates who have paid to be in their guide. The site has a “public service” feature where you can look up your representatives and send them e-mail right from the page, using a form they’ve provided–which no doubt will store your e-mail address so they can send you political spam in the future.
       Sometimes I feel as if it’s a Web race, that, sooner or later, people will make up their minds on whether the Internet truly holds the promise of transforming our anemic political culture. Who knows? Maybe this time the good guys will finally win.