In time for the 1996 presidential and general elections, National Political Index provides comprehensive access to Web and interest sites for political and governmental information. Sponsored by the nonprofit organization Americans Who Work for a Living, its intent is to raise voter awareness through helping patrons browse diverse information sources. In turn, the group also reaches out to candidates by providing no-cost Web sites to interested individuals. This, along with its attempt to be inclusive, makes the Index a welcome addition to the many available electronic political information sources.
Comprehensiveness is the key hallmark of the Index. Currently, it allows access to 3500 sites divided into 32 areas. Federal, state and local government officials and agencies appear, along with matching party organizations. It also provides access points to federal legislation, links to college and university political science departments, a complete list of politically oriented Usenet groups, electronic journals, political humor, and related resources. Especially useful for the upcoming election are links to the Dole and Clinton sites, though one obviously must be careful in using information gleaned through these.
This site draws comparison to Project Vote Smart (http://www.vote-smart.org, _C&RL News_, November, 1995, p.714) and one sees considerable duplication between the sites. However, the difference between the two is in philosophy of coverage. Project Vote Smart mixes Web links with the results of comprehensive issue surveys sent to state and federal candidates, attempting to obtain opinions on important issues so voters can make informed decisions once in the voting both. As noted above, National Political Index endeavors to link all governmental and political sites, along with allowing candidates to create their own Web pages, allowing the browser the maximum number of choices to obtain election information.
As a result, National Political Index compliments Project Vote Smart in meeting the overall goal for providing valuable election information. Academic libraries should keep each in mind to assist the public and researchers. The Web is growing as a source for disseminating government and election data, and these two sites serve as pillars to assist librarians meet these needs.
Stephen L. Hupp
Public Services Librarian
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown