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Voters: Get info, get paid

California election officials tomorrow will unveil a project that lets state voters receive their November ballot pamphlets via email and get paid for reading it.

    California election officials tomorrow will unveil a project that lets state voters receive their November ballot pamphlets via email and get paid for reading it.

    The plan, the first of its kind nationally, is expected to be followed by other states seeking to take advantage of the Net's growing popularity for government use, as well as the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars in postage and printing. It may also be the first step toward electronic voting.

    California prints 14 million ballots each year and sends out 9 million--more than any other state. Printing and postage costs 60 cents per ballot and rates have been rising.

    Secretary of State Bill Jones said the project is the first part of a plan to encourage all branches of government to use the Internet and email.

    The project is being conducted through a joint venture with software and database publisher Aristotle Publishing. Voters tomorrow can register to receive a sample November 1996 Election Pamphlet via Aristotle's Web site.

    Registered voters also will receive a free email address and will be paid to pick up their mail, according to Aristotle executives. Free email accounts only will be available to the nation's 130 million registered voters, they said.

    During the election season, email users will receive about 14 government-related messages a month and will be paid to read them. Advertisers are willing to pay consumers to read their email, at least initially, because it is highly targeted and less expensive than broadcasting or direct mailing. But if your online mailbox gets too full, you can ask to be dropped from "junk mail" and "junk telemarketing" lists.

    "Mail order catalog companies will pay varying amounts to voters who choose to accept commercial mailings, depending on how badly the sender of the catalog wants you to read their piece," John Phillips, Aristotle president, said today.

    Aristotle is following the lead of other online companies such as Goldmail, which pays people to read their ads.

    Phillips said personal information will not be revealed and that the service guarantees privacy. "We won't disclose any information without your consent, because we think privacy is an important selling factor."

    When users have completed the registration procedure, they will be credited 25 cents to open their first piece of mail. Aristotle said it will send out checks beginning December 1, 1997, once users reach the $100 mark.

    Aristotle specializes in compiling databases for political campaigns.