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Web White & Blue launches

The 1998 election site brings together a hodge-podge of online information and will be promoted by more than 450 sites until election day.

A site launched today hopes to combat voter apathy with something the Net has plenty of: information.

Jointly created by private and public sector concerns, the Web White & Blue hub brings together a hodge-podge of online election information, and will be promoted by more than 450 sites across the Net until election day, November 3.

The site was spearheaded by the Markle Foundation and Harvard's Shorenstein Center and is hosted by America Online. Web White & Blue links to 45 sites that include city, county, and state election information; polling locations; issue directories; candidate statements; election news; campaign finance records; and access to online political debates.

Election-night results already are a hot item on the Net, but this project hopes to increase voter turnout by arming people with more information than a newspaper or ballot pamphlet can offer.

"Last month 20 million Americans logged on to the Net within 24 hours to read the Starr report--that is a huge transformation of people wanting direct access to information," Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, said in an interview. "There is a lot of very good nonprofit political information on the Web, but it's not always easy to find. Now a single button gives people direct access to all that information."

TheWeb White & Blue icon could reach up to 30 million Web users via popular commercial sites that will display an icon. Boosters include ABC News, Microsoft, Compaq, Infoseek, Yahoo, and iVillage.

"We predict that the presidential election in 2000 could turn based on what happens on the Net," AOL CEO Steve Case said in an interview.

"But people feel disconnected from the political process, voting is at an all-time low, people feel like they don't understand what is happening or have a stake in what is happening," he added. "We feel the Net can be a tool to address that and to put more information and the fingertips of people."

The Democracy Network (DNet) beefed up its site in time for the launch of Web White & Blue. Working with the League of Women Voters, DNet expanded its coverage beyond California to nine other states. At Dnet, voters can look up how candidates stand on various election issues, searching by name or topic. DNet also lets visitors review transcripts of candidate debates.

The League of Women Voters gathers the candidates' statements and DNet does all the technical work. By 2000 the nonprofit group hopes its database will cover all 50 states.

"You can search for the issues across a number of races or if you're just interested in one candidate you can do that," said DNet project manager Mark Taylor.

"In the elections we've covered we have a 90 percent participation," he added. "Quality and quantity are way up across the Net this year."

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