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Web sites follow down-to-the-wire election

It's Election Day, and Web sites are standing by, ready to pounce on the George W. Bush-Al Gore outcome.

It's Election Day, and Web sites are standing by, ready to pounce on the George W. Bush-Al Gore outcome.

Some are promising up-to-the minute results as each state closes its polls. Others are gearing up for extensive coverage not only of the presidential race but also of congressional elections, the governors' races and other local issues. And a few are featuring games such as "electoral chess" to kill time until the suspense is over.

But none of the Web sites will be able to compete with television when the winner is called, election experts say.

"It's faster to say 'Bush won Michigan' than it is to type in the HTML," said Steven M. Schneider, editor of Netelection.org, which is sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's tough for Web sites to compete with television on Election Day when all there is is poll results."

In the days leading up to the elections, the Web proved to be an invaluable source for political junkies hungry for the latest news on the candidates. Portals provided far more information than television, newspapers or radio, taking advantage of the unlimited time and space available to them. The candidates also made full use of the Web by featuring audio clips of speeches and keeping in touch with constituents through instant messaging and email.

On Tuesday, however, there wasn't much of a buzz on the Net aside from the static "get out and vote" message.

"The only question that matters now is, Who won?" Schneider said. "Election Day belongs to TV."

Still, many Web sites were gearing up for full-blown coverage and postelection dissections.

For those who would rather face a computer screen than a TV set when results are reported, America Online will offer "Results Tracker," a small window members can keep open to receive news flashes about major races.

Schneider's site, Netelections.org, is tracking the Web pages of every congressional candidate, as well as the Bush and Gore sites, for victory or concession announcements.

Election results in Spanish will be available at PoliticsOnline through a partnership with Electorales.com.

Visitors to Voter.com will be able to view an electoral map depicting states won by each presidential candidate. It also will offer a running tally of electoral and popular votes, results on Senate and House seats that Republicans and Democrats lost or gained, and returns on 30 of the most contentious ballot initiatives.

Electoral College results can also be found at 2000GOP.com, which will offer an interactive component, such as a House rankings page where people can view and rank House campaigns. The rankings are updated every 15 minutes.

All the major TV networks will post news on their affiliate Web sites. CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN and ABCNews, for example, will feature audio clips of the latest news, as well as up-to-the-minute results. ABC in particular is making a push to encourage viewers to surf while they watch the news on television.

And instead of waiting for the morning edition of, say, The New York Times to land on their doorsteps, interested readers can go to the paper's Web site for the latest news throughout the night.

In the meantime, those anxiously waiting for the cliffhanger between Bush and Gore to end can play Electoral Chess instead of biting their nails.

The game can be found on MSNBC; a similar game is The U.S. Electoral College Calculator.

"MSNBC's game is flashier," Schneider said. "But the other is a lot easier to use. That's what I've been doing all day."

For a more lighthearted way to pass the time, check out Wotch.com, and help cutout-doll candidates get dressed for Election Day. The wardrobe includes a devil's outfit, baby diapers and an ape costume.

News.com's Gwendolyn Mariano contributed to this report.

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