Election: All Eyes on the Web

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-11-02

Election: All Eyes on the Web

As Election Day played out in polls across the country Tuesday, its course was tracked—in minute detail—by Internet news sites, watchdog organizations and Webloggers, much as they had done most every day over the past several years.

According to reports, voters packed polling stations. Some of them encountered familiar problems such as lost voter registrations and malfunctioning machines, but other voters faced new electronic voting machines, put in place for the first time in this election. The new technology led to some confusion both for voters and for poll officials.

While voters swamped polling places nationwide, they also rushed to the Web. The election Web sites of the presidential candidates, news sources and blogs were among the top destinations.

A day before the election, the sites of both candidates recorded traffic surges. GeorgeWBush.com received 317,000 unique visitors on Monday, a 103 percent jump from the average of the four previous Mondays, according to data from comScore Networks Inc. JohnKerry.com saw a 128 percent increase for the same period with 306,000 visitors, comScore reported.

For online news sites, the trend was similar. On Monday, five of the top sites together had an average of 15 percent more traffic than for the previous four Mondays, comScore said. The five sites analyzed were CNN.com, FoxNews.com, NYTimes.com, USAToday.com and WashingtonPost.com.

Over at MSNBC.com on Tuesday, election interest was lifting site traffic. By Tuesday afternoon, visitor traffic was more than double the amount of a typical day. At a time of the day when the news site typically receives about 60,000 simultaneous users, it was receiving about 140,000 simultaneous visitors Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. And that increase was before election returns began to stream in.

Meanwhile, Slate.com kept a running list of exit-poll results as the vote moved across the nation. The results came from a new organization called the National Election Pool, which six news companies formed to conduct research for the 2004 election.

Left-leaning political blog the Daily Kos was among the sites reading the election tea leaves from exit polls as polling places began to close Tuesday evening. The blog was receiving several hundred thousand page views an hour, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga wrote in a post.

"Forgive this site, and many others across the Web, if we flake out every so often," Moulitsas wrote. "Its not a fun time to be a Web server."

Next Page: Touching on election angles.

Election Angles

Popular political blog Talking Points Memo went offline for about three hours on Election Day because of server problems. It was back up and reporting exit polls by about 5 p.m. EST.

Page after page of news stories stacked up in search-engine listings on the Internet. Google Inc.s news collator page reported that 2,872 pages were primed with election coverage.

Few angles of stories were left untouched. CNN.com, for instance, reported that Nevada officials wanted to improve voter confidence in the states electronic voting machines. So, officials sought out local expert help: the people who test slot machines for fairness and reliability.

Some sites looked toward the end of the election, or more to the evening hours. In Portland, Ore., Kari Chisholms BlueOregon blog pointed to a long list of local, Democratic post-election parties, as well as providing the location of the Republican party, "in the spirit of bipartisanship."

In society-conscious New York, however, the New York Posts coverage pointed toward the best "viewing party" to make the scene (or be seen), such as the one at The Park, where Jon Stewart and the "Daily Show" correspondents will conclude their live "Indecision 2004" wrap-up broadcast.

Of course, concerns over the correct functioning of electronic voting machines filled the Web before the election as well as on the day. To avoid using the machines, many voters filled out provisional paper ballots Tuesday.

Here is a selection of eWEEK.com articles on e-voting and the reliability of electronic voting technology:

  • Casting a Vote for Paper Ballots
  • Digital Chads: E-Voting Errors Almost Inevitable
  • E-Voting: Its Security, Stupid
  • Making Voting a Simpler Exercise
  • Diebold Debacle Signals Need for a Paper Trail

    Meanwhile, the outcome of the election will define the direction for a number of issues important to the technology industry: outsourcing policy, the way stock options are treated by corporations, and intellectual property rights.

    According to the results of an eWEEK.com poll taken on Election Day, a majority (44 percent) of respondents said a vote for John Kerry would be best for IT. President Bush received a 36 percent score, while 19 percent of respondents said there is no difference between their policies for the IT market.

    Here is a selection of articles on politics intersection with IT:

  • Is Bush Good for the Tech Worker?
  • Site Blockage Shows Bush Team Doesnt Get It
  • Kerry Grasps Potential of Tech, Backer Says
  • Techs Capitol Hill Hurdles

    Editors Note: Libe Goad provided additional reporting for this story.

    Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.

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