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CNNdotCOM Tools: Political portals

(CNN) -- The days of voting online are not yet upon us, but better informed voting certainly is. So don't close the curtain on your voting booth just yet -- there's still plenty of politics to be had online.

"We call them political portals, and they exist as hubs of information that deal with all the candidates equally," said Andrew Brandt, PC World senior associate editor, as he scrolled through Freedom Channel. Candidate profiles, voting records and stances on the major issues dominate Freedom Channel's pages, along with those much-analyzed campaign commercials.

Focusing on the issues the major parties are tackling, Grassroots.com lets you punch in your zip code for information on the election candidates and issues that affect you. The site was started by former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry and George W. Bush adviser Condoleeza Rice.

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Affiliated with Grassroots.com is DemocracyNet, where you can set up your own election grid. Choose the issues you're most interested in, and the grid shows you what the candidates have to say.

For the snoops among us, opensecrets.org offers a peek into campaign financing. By submitting your zip code, you can find who the biggest donors are in your area. You can also go to the individual campaigns and find out who's been contributing.

And for the youth and youth-oriented, MTV's Rock the Vote (and its in-your-face design) caters to a younger audience. Although it lacks extensive original content, the site effectively pinpoints the issues of interest to its viewers.

So how helpful are candidate Web sites?

"If you have a particular interest in a topic that is outside the sphere of coverage for two or three weeks of the election cycle, you won't hear about that in network news, but you can go right to the candidate's Web site and find out exactly where they stand on that issue," Brandt said.

Brandt predicts the candidate sites will start to "tune their rhetoric" more toward visitors once they get a better handle on tracking where you click.

And at most sites, you can register to vote rather than go to the post office to get a form.

"You can do it at 3 a.m. in your pajamas," Brandt said.

 Tools tips:
At Grassroots.com, punch in your zip code to view election candidates and issues that affect you.

At opensecrets.org, click on Industry Profiles to see which parties companies support.

At Rock the Vote, check your state's voter registration deadline.


RELATED STORIES:
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October 19, 2000
Bush addresses range of issues in first online news interview
August 30, 2000
Analysis: Are instant Internet polls worthwhile?
August 17, 2000
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From big parties to little guys, big votes for online politics

RELATED SITES:
Freedom Channel
Grassroots.com
DemocracyNet
opensecrets.org
Rock the Vote


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