My wife thinks I'm pretty strange. As soon as we got the state voter information pamphlet, I started looking up which districts we're in and shot off e-mails to candidates asking them where they stand. According to her, nobody she knows has ever done that, but I'm also atypical. Since I've been a candidate and been in party leadership positions before, I know how important it is to choose quality people to represent us in government. I'm also not going to do any voting based on party: I've already found myself in favor of candidates from multiple parties based on their individual stances, not their party's.
There is a certain amount of frustration, however. Many of the candidates I e-mailed don't seem to want to respond even after 10 days. I fired off seven e-mails to the candidates who I still had questions for and so far, only two have responded. What's up with that? It's hard enough as a candidate to get your message out, so when someone practically comes knocking on your door with questions, take the opportunity to sell yourself!
Big cheers for Trisha Beck and Wayne Niederhauser of Senate District 9 for responding to my questions in a timely fashion. Wayne even took the time to call me on the phone to answer personally, a nice touch. Big jeers for Lavar Christensen and Jim Matheson of US Congressional District 2 and
Sylvia Anderson, Eric Gustafson, and Francis Tully of House District 48 for not responding in any way, shape, or form. (No, Francis, the autoreply doesn't count.) This kind of gives me an idea of who will be a responsive legislator if elected, and "None of the above" is starting to sound like a pretty good alternative to legislators who can't be bothered to respond to the concerns of their constituents.
Candidates, as a professional computer nerd, let me give you a few pointers on how to operate in the matured Information Age. Number one, get a website. A REAL website. Blogspot doesn't count. You can get domains for at little as $15 a month (my favorite is DirectNIC) and hosting for under $10 a month. There are also a lot of great "website in a can" products out there like WordPress, phpNuke, and Movable Type that are highly configurable and customizable beyond their traditional portal and blogging uses.
Two, make sure your website actually addresses major policy areas like transportation, education, health care, taxes, etc. You don't have to write a book on where you stand, but a quick sheet of positions would be helpful. The best case scenario is using a Wiki like Pete Ashdown has done to have a comprehensive list of your positions.
Three, if you're going to blog, then blog. Don't make a few entries spaced months apart then forget to post for the rest of the year. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. If you aren't going to commit yourself to letting citizens know what you would have done differently on the hot topics of the day at least bi-weekly, drop the blog and focus on campaigning. Nothing looks worse than an obviously stale website that makes voters think you'll leave projects half-done.
Four, don't forget that online campaigning is still a very small microcosm of the electorate. Don't put all your eggs in the online basket, but do enough to look like you're doing it because you care, not because you think you have to. Registering a free blog and using your Yahoo e-mail address makes you look cheap.
And the final one should be obvious: if you're going to list your e-mail address as a method of contact, respond in a timely fashion. I can understand if you don't have a chance to answer before the weekend, though a quick "I got your e-mail and I'll be responding to it by Saturday" wouldn't hurt you one bit. If you don't really check your e-mail regularly, then don't bother listing the address. It just cheeses off connected voters like me when we don't get a response.
UPDATE: Looks like I typed the wrong address when sending to Sylvia Andersen. My bad.