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Internet

Net helps voters cram

Voters are finding that some of the best study guides available are on the Internet.

    Voters who haven't studied the issues for today's general election can find some hefty cheat sheets on the Net.

    This election could change the balance of power in Congress as well as shake things up at the local level of government. But with distractions like the stock market's wild ride, the Microsoft antitrust trial, and the commander-in-chief's sex life, chances are people haven't had the time to research the issues.

    Those with online access are in luck, however.

    There are a slew of nonpartisan Web sites that can help most voters cram for the big event or monitor the results after the polls close tomorrow.

    But despite the grass-roots nature of the Net it may be hard for voters to find the skinny on county races and local ballot measures. If one of the election sites below doesn't provide links to local information, the best alternative is to scour local news media Web sites.

    The portals

  • Web White & Blue--This is one of the largest one-stop-shops on the Net and aggregates links to voting poll locations; candidate profiles and statements; ballot issues; and election news for federal, state, and some local elections, such as the California Voter Foundation.

  • Democracy Network--Features a comprehensive grid of state initiative and referendum issues, although in some cases the full text of the ballot issues is not available. An easy-to-use pull-down menu for each state takes users to a list of the available online voting information.

  • Project Vote Smart--One of the most useful features allows users to look up their districts in order to access candidate profiles for statewide elections. The site also links to most Secretary of State offices.

  • League of Women Voters--After typing in a street address and zip code, users can find their poll location and a comprehensive list of the pros and cons for state and federal candidates and issues. Local issues are available for a wide range of cities as well.

    Follow the money
    Aside from basic election data, the Net is becoming a major tool for campaign contribution disclosure.

  • Federal Election Commission--Contains campaign finance information for federal races.

  • Center for Responsive Politics--Lets users search an array of databases to see which individuals, companies, Political Action Committees, and lobbyists are contributing to campaigns and political parties. The site also contains links to state campaign finance information.

  • Mother Jones--The muckraking magazine's Web site has an online database that lists the nation's top political investors and indicates whether they have received any "favors" in return for their cash donations.

  • State sites--California, Indiana, Hawaii, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, and Michigan have set up systems to put some or all election contributions on the Net.

    Other election guides & results sites
    The following sites built state and federal election guides and will carry result updates after the polls close:

    ABCNews.com, CNN's AllPolitics C-Span, MSNBC, NetCenter, and Washington Post.com Yahoo.