America Online Announces Launch of Election 98: Politics on Your Terms

September 8, 1998

"Talking Points," America's First Prime-time Online Political Talk Show, Offers Regular Opportunities to Interact with Candidates, Journalists and Newsmakers On AOL Live Each Tuesday Night "National Brainstorm" Asks AOL Members for Their Views on How to Improve Campaigns Weekly Polls Conducted with George Magazine Take the Pulse of AOL Members Dulles, VA, September 8, 1998 -- In a campaign that could transform the election process by putting more information and power in the hands of American voters, America Online today announced the launch of its new election area, Election 98: Politics on Your Terms, that will allow AOL members to research issues, interact with candidates and follow the elections -- all with the click of a mouse. The new area offers the simplicity of searching by zip code, state-of-the-art interactivity and comprehensive election coverage from AOL's news and politics partners. It provides members a fresh way to take control of their role in the political process and to move beyond the sound bites and cynicism so dominant in today's politics. Part of AOL's ongoing effort to use the interactive medium to increase civic participation, Election 98 offers message boards for congressional and gubernatorial races, an easy process for registering to vote online, quick access to the latest polls and campaign news, and issue materials generated by non-partisan groups, such as Project Vote Smart, the Center for Responsive Politics and Democracy Network. Residing in AOL's News Channel on the Politics main screen [Keyword: Election 98], Election 98 takes advantage of AOL's unique partnerships between leading news organizations, such as ABC News, National Journal and the New York Times, and non-profit groups, including the League of Women Voters and the Alliance For Better Campaigns. By aggregating and customizing these diverse resources in a user-friendly way, Election 98 makes it easier and more rewarding for AOL members to have their voices heard and to participate in the political process. The interactive medium has the power to fundamentally change our political process by empowering people to educate themselves and to interact directly with candidates and each other," said America Online Chairman and CEO Steve Case. "By taking advantage of the medium's ability to deliver information that is customized to fit people's particular interests and geographic locations, Election 98 gives our more than 13 million members the tools they need to connect to the political process on their own terms." Zip Code Searches By simply typing in their zip code, AOL members and visitors to AOL.COM are able to identify and learn about the gubernatorial, Senate and House candidates on the ballot in their area. The zip code search takes users to biographical information on the candidates and links to other information on the candidates' issue positions and financial contributors produced by non-partisan organizations. Links to candidate web sites and e-mail addresses are also provided, when available. "The zip code searches will connect people to information they can use to make their decisions in the fall elections. With a few clicks, you can learn who's on the ballot in your district, where candidates stand on the issues and who has contributed money to their campaigns," said Barry Schuler, President, AOL Interactive Services. "Most voters get their information from competing TV ads, which give a manipulated view of the candidates. Online, we put an important set of tools at your fingertips...you drive the car and you can get there quickly." Capitol Advantage, a company that provides online congressional data services and printed directories to associations, trade and media organizations, teamed with AOL to put the zip code technology to use for AOL's members and visitors to AOL.COM. "Talking Points" On September 15, as part of its Election 98 programming, AOL will debut "Talking Points," America's first prime-time online political talk show. The innovative, interactive program will air every Tuesday evening from 8:00 - 9:00 Eastern time on AOL Live, and on the Web through AOL.COM, until the conclusion of the mid-term elections. The show will feature candidates, government leaders, party officials, consultants and journalists discussing and answering audience questions on the upcoming elections, the major issues of the day and the evolution of politics on the Internet. Among the guests for the inaugural show are James Carville and Mary Matalin, the political strategists who, respectively, led the 1992 Clinton and Bush campaigns, married in 1993 and then wrote about their campaign experience in their best selling memoir, "All's Fair: Love, War and Running for President." Guests for future shows include Brian Lamb, Chairman and CEO of C-SPAN; Representative John Kasich, Chairman of the House Budget Committee; UPI's White House correspondent Helen Thomas; and GOP consultant and former Executive Director of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed. "National Brainstorm" In a major grassroots initiative, AOL and the Alliance For Better Campaigns are engaging Americans in a "National Brainstorm," asking people across the country to share their views about how to make political campaigns better. AOL and the Alliance, a public interest group promoting high standards for candidate accountability, media coverage and citizen engagement, are going directly to AOL's 13 million members for new ideas on improving campaigns. In addition to providing their own ideas, AOL members will have the opportunity to rate the Alliance's six-point agenda for lifting the quality of campaigns. The agenda includes frequent debates and mini-debates, regular appearances by candidates in their own ads, Sunday evening political programming, ad watches, candidate codes of conduct and disclosure of the funding behind issue advocacy group ads that mention a candidate by name. "Politics doesn't have to be about cynicism and scandal," said Schuler. "'The National Brainstorm' is a way for people who care about issues and the quality of our political discourse to flex their grassroots muscle and to help change the way campaigns are conducted." AOL is using online polls, message boards and e-mail to collect ideas from its members. Visitors to AOL.COM will also be able to participate in the "National Brainstorm." The best ideas gathered during the "National Brainstorm" will be posted on AOL and distributed by the Alliance. Weekly Polls with George Magazine In partnership with George Magazine, AOL is polling its members every week on the key issues at the center of the fall campaigns. The first poll asks members, "what issue matters most to you?" Subsequent polls will probe those issues that AOL members said were most important to them. "This isn't about a pollster huddled in front of a PC determining which subjects to ask people about," said Schuler. "AOL's members are in control of the process: by participating in the first week's poll, they decide the issues that will be explored throughout the election season." National Journal's Hotline Weekly Available to AOL Members AOL is teaming with National Journal to offer its members access to National Journal's Hotline Weekly, the Early Bird newspaper round-ups, as well as political columns and campaign polls from across the country. Through "National Journal's Cloakroom on AOL," members are able to track the campaign polls in their favorite races and follow what the nation's leading pundits are saying about the elections and key national issues. In addition, ABC News, an anchor tenant on AOL's News Channel, and Politics anchor tenants, Policy.com and IntellectualCapital.com, are providing valuable content on the latest policy and political developments. Information For Busy People Election 98 is designed to provide people who are short on time with an efficient way to learn about the issues and candidates in a manner that fits with their busy schedules. According to a new Census Bureau report, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 1996, almost five million people -- 4.6 million -- said they did not vote in the 1996 presidential election because they were too busy. The study also found that just 54.2 percent of the voting-age population voted in the 1996 election, the lowest participation rate since the Census Bureau began collecting the data in 1964. "We want to make it more convenient for people to do research on a candidate," said Kathleen deLaski, AOL's Director of New Initiatives for the News and Information Channels. "A person might be able to squeeze in ten minutes before work or 20 minutes at the end of the day. That's a tough time to reach a campaign or political organization on the phone, but it's an ideal time to go online and explore a candidate's votes and issue positions." AOL members will also be able to create their own web pages to register their support for their favorite candidates. In addition, Election 98's Road to 2000 will feature the latest developments in the race for the White House in the year 2000. Parts of Election 98 Available on AOL.COM Certain elements of Election 98, including information on the candidates and the zip code search function, are also available on the Web at http://election98.aol.com.

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