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The Importance of E-mail

Click for full screen image At the top of every campaign's "wish list" is the ability to save money. In 1998, the potential for saving money was shown by Municipal Court Judge Caryl Anne Lee of Orange County, California in her campaign for Superior Court. Lee's campaign sent e-mails to 68,000 voters at a cost of $299. Had Lee sent direct mail pieces to the same amount of voters that total would have skyrocketed to $28,500. The e-mail sent by Lee simply reminded the person to get out and vote and offered a link to Lee's campaign Web site. The mass e-mailing generated 1,000 hits on Lee's home Web page (Raney, 1998). 1 In March 1998, a political advocacy group in Seattle, Washington, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, distributed 2 million pieces of e-mail in order to boost its membership. The response to the mass e-mailing was 10 times better, per dollar, than with conventional direct mail pieces. Interestingly, the group received only 24 complaints about the e-mail messages. In California, the question of whether voters consider unsolicited e-mails from candidates an invasion of privacy, another unwanted piece of junk mail (spam), or welcome information from the campaign. Democratic political consultant Robert Barnes, who backed off a plan to distribute a half million e-mails to California voters, argued that these mass e-mailing were a legitimate form of free speech. Judging from Lee's experience above, voters are willing to accept unsolicited e-mails from a campaign and, for the most part, welcome them as an information-gaining tool.


Targeting likely voters has long been a way for campaigns to save money in their quest for election. The Internet sped up the process by which candidates received demographic and past voting information, which traditionally relied on paper reports, diskettes, or CD-ROMs. By 1998, campaigns could get that information on the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, as more people begin accessing candidates' Web sites, the personal identification information (the "cookies") provided by Internet users when they log onto commercial Web services will allow for precise targeting procedures (Johnson, 1999). 2 Combine this information with demographic and voting history records, and a more powerful weapon is at the disposal of the candidate's campaign than it is has had in the history of political campaigns.

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Created On November 29, 2001
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