Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have many resources not available to local candidates in their respective parties – however, there is a key election tool they both use avidly that many local candidates eschew: a website.
I’m a thirty-something female. I am of the first generation that used the Internet in high school. I don’t just remember when Geocities was a thing – I remember when it first came out. I’m also a voter, and I’ve noticed how both major parties have been attempting to earn the votes of women this year.
Although I still watch news on TV sometimes, the Internet is my primary source of information, especially when I want to compare sources to avoid bias and seek truth.
A Pew Research Poll, published in Sep. 2012, indicates that half of all Americans get their news from online sources – a number that grows with each annual poll. Furthermore, 27 percent of Americans get their news on mobile devices and apps. As research indicates, the younger the demographic, the more news is consumed online versus print or TV media.
I vote, although I probably should be more civic-minded. Before heading to the polls, I decided to do some research on my local candidates. Although I am a registered Democrat and voted for President Obama, I do not always vote according to the party line. In the past I have voted for third-party candidates, independent candidates and a Republican. Because I realize sometimes others’ views are more in line with mine than my party’s nominee, I know the importance of researching each candidate.
Unfortunately, I had little help this year when it came to my local election. First, I asked Google: “Where is my polling location?” Google asked me for my address and took me to a special elections page which revealed a map of my polling locations, ballot referenda, and the candidates for each office.
Google also links directly to a search for the candidate’s name. In theory, this makes it easy for users to research the candidates’ views and should turn up news articles and official websites for the candidates. Google also links directly to the candidates’ social media sites. All of the presidential candidates have these fields populated.
However, less and less social media sites are available as I go down the line, looking at my candidates. Some of the nominees for positions in Senate and Congress have only Facebook and Twitter channels (if any social media sites at all). I was unable to find any information on the Board of Chosen Freeholders nominees and little information on the nominees for sheriff. Few of the candidates have websites.
Because of this, I ended up voting for all Democrats. In the absence of other information, the only thing I could do was vote with the party that most consistently represents my viewpoints. I was disappointed, though – because I know sometimes other candidates match my views.
How Much Would It Cost a Candidate to Create a Website?
I’m shocked that campaigns at all levels spend so much money on print and radio advertising and call constantly in an attempt to gain votes. Why don’t they have websites? For a local candidate, it wouldn’t take much to build a website:
$12.99 for a domain via GoDaddy; this domain can be redirected and can mask another URL
$0 for a basic ad-free site constructed and hosted on Blogger or WordPress
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube are all free services
Student volunteers who are instructed to call and persuade voters could instead be utilized to build and maintain a website and social media platforms at no cost
Using a website and social media, a local candidate can reach people directly. Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ constantly uses Twitter to personally interact with his constituents. During Hurricane Sandy, he responded to emergency requests from people reporting dangerous situations. He can combat misinformation and populate his account with accurate information.
Why aren’t local candidates doing this on a daily basis? Any public figure or official can no longer afford to be without a social media site. If you have any doubt about that, just check out Obama’s Tumblr page. This blog uses the lingo of Tumblr users and promotes a positive, youth-centric image from the incumbent. In true Tumblr fashion, the site publishes animated gifs of the president and reminds young voters to “stop looking at cats online and go vote.”
This year, researching my local candidates was a difficult process. At least one candidate probably lost my vote because I didn’t know I agreed with him or her more than I agreed with my party’s candidate.
Dear local candidates: Lesson learned – if you want my vote, get a website.