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Silicon Valley voters get smart

The Smart Voter launches a new Web site, designed to give Silicon Valley voters access to custom, comprehensive information on local elections.

Elayne Dauber admits it. She was skeptical when she first heard about today's launch of the Smart Voter Web site, which is designed to give Silicon Valley voters access to custom, comprehensive information on local elections.

Dauber is running for a second City Council term in the bucolic and affluent city of Los Altos Hills. She's used to campaigning by spending a few thousand bucks mailing out a lot of literature and going door to door.

But Dauber hadn't discovered what thousands of other politicians and campaigners have already: The Web has become a campaign bandwagon and more players are jumping on every day. Along with all kinds of campaign-based Web sites, California election officials, for example, are working on a project that lets state voters receive their November ballot pamphlets via email.

California voters, who after all live in the most populous state in the union, also can turn to a site launched today, the California Online Voter Guide. The guide, issued by the California Voter Foundation, provides links to more than 100 campaign-sponsored Web sites and features information on candidate races as well as ballot propositions and the presidential election.

Smart Voter, a Santa Clara-based nonprofit organization with widespread collaboration from media and news outlets, is adding a new dimension to Internet campaigning: personalization. Voters log on to their Web page, plunk in their addresses, and a list of their own candidates and ballot measures appears with hyperlinks to additional information.

Candidate information includes biographies, top priorities, endorsements, and position papers. To date, more than 125 candidates have submitted information, and for those who have yet to do so, the site can be updated.

When the folks at Smart Voter told Dauber about the site, she wasn't sure it could work but sent in the information anyway, using her husband's email.

Then she saw a sneak preview of the page and was immediately sold. "I think it's a terrific idea."

Not only would it be good for democracy, she says, but it can't hurt the pocketbook. "People will look it up and read it," she said. "It could save candidates a lot of money. It gives double and triple exposure."

In fact, she liked it so much, she's now considering another revolutionary political move: getting her own email.