Minnesota Town Hall 1996 is intended to be a place for citizens to discuss with each other the candidates and the issues involved in the 1996 elections in the State of Minnesota.
We believe institutions must exist that provide the citizenry the liberty to express their views and concerns in the political community of which they are a part.
Minnesota Town Hall 1996 has been produced by Minnesota Electronic Democracy, a 501.c.3 with a mission to enhance the democratic process through the use of computer networks. We have received generous financial support from the Star Tribune/Cowles Media Foundation. We have also enjoyed tremendous support from our collaborators in creating Minnesota Town Hall 1996. These include Cafe Utne, Channel 4000 (WCCO Online), the League of Women Voters of MN, Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota Regional Network, The River Project, The Star Tribune, and the Twin Cities Freenet.
This fall we will be focusing on the race for the Minnesota seat in the United States Senate. The marquee event will be an E-Debate (Electronic Debate) between the candidates running for the United States Senate. This will take place from October 22nd to October 28th and will be tied in to a number of debates and events produced by our collaborators and taking place in other mediums such as radio and television.
Senator Paul Wellstone (DFL), former Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R), and Dean Barkely (Reform Party) are competing, among others, in a race of national and even global significance.
Virtually all the candidates profess to espouse moderate positions on issues of social justice, yet have profoundly different views on what needs to be done for the United States to flourish in the 21st Century.
This clash is a major index, possibly the major index, to the direction Congress will take in the coming years, as indicated by the fact that the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has targeted the race as a top priority. Certainly, it is a political event that will elicit more energy and more substantive discourse than this years race for Presidency.
Minnesota Town Hall 1996 is designed to be a place for citizens to be part of the action. It is our hope to use the global scope of the Internet to focus the attention of not only the citizenry of Minnesota but also of interested parties across the nation and world on this uniquely interesting and significant race in the electoral cycle of 1996.
In this way we hope not only to highlight the political contest and issues involved but also the power of the Internet as an indispensible tool to enhance the democratic process locally and across the world by allowing more people to participate.
In sum, I will highlight the features that distinguish Minnesota Town Hall 1996 as a tool to enhance democracy. These include:
1. The focus on electoral politics.
2. The focus on a specific, geographically bound political community.
3. The effort to enable citizens freely to express their opinions within the political community during an electoral contest.
4. The use of both e-mail conferencing technology and world wide web conferencing technology to facilitate participation.
5. The collaboration between civic organizations, the non-profit community and private media organizations.