Kim Alexander,

       It’s a beautiful, breezy spring day here in Sacramento, but I’m not out playing volleyball with my friends in the park. I’m spending the afternoon at my computer, checking out some of the California campaign Web sites sprouting up on the Internet this year.
       For the last four elections, I’ve put together nonpartisan online voter guides that cover California races and ballot measures and serve as a nexus for everything that’s happening online in California elections and politics. This year is going to be a big test year for the Net in California. These days I’m watching closely to see if the Internet will have a measurable impact on the upcoming California primary election, which is just two weeks away.
       The main reason people give for not voting is that they are too busy. A lot of pundits scoff at that: “How can you be too busy to vote? It only takes 10 minutes.” But to be an informed voter in California, you need to do a lot more than spend a few minutes in the voting booth. In the Golden State, we elect everybody–school board members, judges, county treasurers–you name it, we elect them. In addition to layers upon layers of government, voters have to sort through complex and sometimes misleading state and local ballot measures.
       I used to think that everyone else knew what was going on and that I was the only ignorant one all confused by the elections. But around 1992 I started thinking: “Hey, I’m a college graduate, a native Californian, working in the state capital. If I don’t understand what the hell I’m doing when I vote, what are the chances that anyone else does?” Later that year an intern introduced me to the Internet, and pretty soon I realized there was a way around all the confusion and misleading information coming from political campaigns. Two years later, the 1994 California Online Voter Guide was up and running, one of just six voter guides available on the Internet that year.
       In 1998, there are hundreds of sites in California alone. Most candidates are offering what has now become standard fare for a campaign Web site–a bio, position papers, photos, and information on how to get involved in the campaign. The sites are far more positive than most of the ads I see on television. They aim to persuade the curious voter–not with sound bites but with issue statements and endorsement lists.
       I still don’t know if the Internet is going to revolutionize the way we practice politics in this country. But one thing I do know: It can’t get much worse.