Internet Influences Close Race

With the presidential election too close to call as it heads down to the wire, more Americans -- and the candidates vying to represent them -- are grabbing on to electronic tools to either make or influence the decisions that could decide Tuesday's outcome.

In one recent survey, 89 percent of Web users said they would use information they had gotten online in deciding how to cast their vote.

Most of those striking out across the Internet to sift through political information hit news sites more than sites run by the candidates themselves, according to a survey by Arthur Andersen.

Feverish campaign workers for both major tickets have jumped on the prospect that electronic tools can make a difference.

"In the area of organizing, we ran a banner ad campaign that said 'The Future President Wants to See You,'" explained Larry Purpuro, deputy chief of staff for the Republican National Committee, in Washington.

Those who click in are offered a chance to have an e-mail alert when candidate George W. Bush is in that person's neighborhood.

Purpuro estimated that the Republicans have spent $US5.7 million on the Internet initiative. Purpuro is heading up e.GOP, an effort to create an electronic channel for communication across the Republican network.

The Democrats are far from outdone in the heated race, not only to capture the White House but also to harness the Internet for campaigning.

Under headings such as "Online Nevada" or "Online West Virginia" is a chance for supportive Web users to generate e-mails to friends urging a vote for Al Gore. Also available on the Gore site are instructions for creating a Web site that endorses the candidate.

The Democratic National Committee's answer to e.GOP is the E-Precinct Leader Program, also designed as a way to kick out massive amounts of grassroots e-mail messages urging a Gore vote.

GOP's Purpuro said the party had increased by 3,000 percent spending on Web initiatives.

Those efforts are likely to intensify as voters warm to the idea of voting online, concluded Arthur Andersen officials who polled 669 online users.

Two-thirds of those who took the survey said they would vote online if given a chance.

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