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Tuesday's election is historic

November 3, 2008 - Art Smith
Tomorrow is Election Day.

Yes, I know it is historical, yes I know that we will have either have a black man as president, or a woman as vice president. Neither should be an issue. Unfortunately they both have been.

For a huge number of Americans it is historical for another reason. There is neither a Bush nor Clinton on the ticket. A voter must look back to 1976 and the election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford to find an election that didn’t have a Bush or Clinton running either on the top or bottom of the ticket.

Jimmy Carter won that election of course, only to be beaten four years later by the Reagan- Bush ticket.

Ronald Reagan came to Marietta the weekend before the election in a push to get the Ohio vote. A college student at Ohio University at the time, I helped cover the event for The Marietta Times. A few days later I would vote in my first presidential election. The first of seven elections that would have a Clinton or Bush on the ticket.
A lot has changed since 1980. For one, the Internet that would become such a large part of our culture had not even been invented yet. The personal computer was still several years away.

The way candidates campaign has changed as well. Sure, they still fly around the country the way Reagan did back in 1980 and the way Sarah Palin did Sunday. They still fill college gyms with thousands of devoted voters the way both did at Marietta College exactly 28 years apart.

There are new and more intrusive ways that both parties have embraced this election.

When Congress passed the do-not-call-list legislation several years ago they allowed for political calls. That is why your dinner has been interrupted lately by John McCain asking for your vote, or Michelle Obama telling you her husband would be a good president. These calls are made possible by massive databases that not only know where you live, they know where you vote. If you make it to the end without hanging up, they will normally remind you where your polling place is.

I made the error of e-mailing both presidential campaigns a few weeks ago to ask a question about Internet advertising.

I didn’t get the answer; I do get regular e-mails from them now. Joe, Barack, Michelle have all sent me personal e-mails on a nearly daily basis. Nothing from John, Cindy or Sarah though, I’ve read they aren’t as Web savvy.

A lot of campaigns are also using geo-targeting with their ads. Newspaper ads are geo-targeted, you simply buy an ad in areas where you want people to vote your way.

The Internet also geo-targets. It’s a little more complicated.

The servers that display ads know where you are located. No, we can’t tell if you are in your living room or your bedroom. We can tell what town users are in and we can then display ads that match those towns.

On a trip to North Dakota I saw ads for the governor’s race there even though I wasn’t on a North Dakota based site. Over the weekend I saw an ad for Ohio’s Issue 6 even though I was on a Texas newspaper’s Web site.

So Tuesday we go to vote. All the technology in the world will not matter. For most of we will use a good old number 2 pencil and do something that anyone under 50 has never been able to do. Vote in an election that doesn’t contain a Bush or Clinton.


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