Web site lets voters' beliefs be their guide Info provided for races nationwide
By Mick Mc Cabe
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Today's world is driven by the Internet, but artist Mary Gillis can recall her frustration in 2004 when she tried and failed to find objective, nonpartisan Web sites to tell her about the presidential candidates.
So she created her own site, gathering information from candidates' sites and reading their public speeches.
The first year, nearly 1 million people visited www.whatsyourvote.org to learn about presidential candidates John Kerry and George W. Bush.
This year, Gillis and her Web site architects at Mediascape in Southfield, Mich., embarked on an ambitious expansion of the site, gathering information for candidates running for governor and seats in the U.S. House and Senate across all 50 states. That amounted to 1,865 candidates when all the minor parties were included, although primary elections have whittled down the number.
Visitors to the site pick a race and then the candidates they want to compare. Then they choose from a list of issues that they're interested in, and the candidates' stances on those issues are displayed without identifying the candidate. Visitors choose the response that best fits their beliefs and then it's revealed which candidate matches.
"Then you can vote for the person who more closely matches your beliefs," said Gillis, 54.
Candidates have been asked to answer questions without bashing their opponent. Responses have been spotty. Candidates from Texas, California, Maryland and Illinois have better response rates than those in other states. Libertarians tend to respond more frequently.
Candidates are inundated with dozens - sometimes hundreds - of questionnaires from special-interest and political groups and from the news media.
"Answering these questionnaires is extremely staff intensive, and your responses can and will be used against you. So you have to be very careful," said John Truscott, spokesman for Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Gillis "contacted us, and we just don't have the time. We've already easily responded to a couple of dozen questionnaires."
The return for the candidates isn't proven, either. The site receives 200 to 300 hits a day. And some campaigns just aren't very sophisticated yet.
"We've had to help some candidates get Web-savvy," said Howard Luby, president of Mediascape. "And a lot of them might not want to get pinned down on some of the issues just yet."
But once one candidate puts up responses, Gillis said she expects the others to quickly follow. And if they don't, she's provided links to the campaigns' e-mail so voters can bug candidates to participate.
The site is a labor of love for Gillis. She's given up painting and sculpting to work on it full time during the election season.
Gillis is trying to make money on the site by offering candidates information on demographics and how visitors voted. So far, business is slow.
"We're just in the beginning stages," she said. "But I think we'll see a radical increase in candidate participation."
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, Detroit Free Press Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services