Using the Internet in local political campaigns
December 22, 2003 1:02 AM   Subscribe

We've seen how Internet has been used effectively in several national political campaigns. I'm wondering if this can be efficiently adapted to smaller races (city/county/state). I'm also on the lookout for any online resources that would facilitate mounting a serious campaign; advice on tactical matters, budgeting a campaign, opportunities to exploit and pitfalls to avoid, networking with like-minded individuals, novel ways to reach out to voters, etc.

As further background, I should explain that a friend of mine is running for Congress. She is running as a Democrat (in Nebraska) and had expected to face an entrenched Republican incumbent who often runs unopposed; a man who has managed to spend 25+ years in undistinguished benchwarming, yet is continually re-elected like clockwork. In a curious turn of events, he has just pulled out of the race entirely. My friend has a bit of a head start on the rest of the field, but we expected it will soon be glutted in a wide-open race.
posted by RavinDave to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
I think it's good and bad for local campaigns. I've seen a local race (Matt Gonzalez for Mayor of SF) use the internet very well to organize volunteers in a Dean sort of way, but on the flip side you have the obvious problem of a worldwideweb being applied to a local interest race. How many people in your local jurisdiction use the web? How will you get them to your site (get a catchy URL and put that URL on everything if you haven't already)?
posted by mathowie at 1:24 AM on December 22, 2003

The problem as mathowie pointed out is how small do you get before the value is lost. In his example, dissemination is potentially problematic and your internet userbase may be not worth hitting. I would say both underlay the deeper question of value return on time spent setting up a resource. If the race is small enough, it is a questionable use of resources. Is it worth it to set up internet services for a race involving a town of [percent who would use] * [city population] (ex 15 thousand)? That kind of thing. Would it be better to spend X time with Y individuals setting up a website or could the goal be better accomplished in other ways (posters, door to door, speaking at events).

As far as tools go, there are many existing tools for organization, news, and soliciting donations. I know of
PhpCampaignTools but I recall hearing some large foundations were developing tools for this type of project. Even if there is not a unified web package you should find it fairly simple to link up a few tools.

The whole subject gets quite a good deal of press, as an example
John Hopkins maintains a feed on blogs in politics (primarily presidential).

You also might try checking with the party and see if they provide any systems of this sort.
posted by rudyfink at 4:27 AM on December 22, 2003

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