From a recent newsletter:
As staff members at the Maine Democratic Party have worked to update the party's website recently, plans for more significant changes are underway. Pat Colwell and Executive Director Rich Pelletier-Simpson have begun exploring what the party can do to make the website a more accessible and engaging tool for Democratic activism.
"With the recent presidential campaign of John Kerry and especially with Governor Howard Dean's campaign, we've seen how a good website can be a powerful tool to connect individuals to the larger network of activists throughout the state and across the country," said Colwell. "It's about time the Maine Democratic Party has a website that really works for Democrats who want to get involved."
Since the party website was first posted in the late 1990's, there have been significantly more user-friendly options made available to organizations that need a website. After the complete renovation, the site will be more visually appealing, easier to navigate, and easier to update.
This is great! The current website is a dinosaur and the Republicans are using the internet much more effectively in this state. For instance, they had a menu on the front of their website during the last election that allowed Republicans to find the candidates in their area and quickly sign up as a volunteer. On the Dem's site, the link to sign up for the state-wide email list doesn't even work (go try putting in your email right now if you don't believe me).
I hope this also means they'll be using a weblog or a similar system to better communicate with democrats across the state. I've seen how well it can work. In just the two and a half weeks this site has been up, I've had emails from prominent Democrats, other bloggers, and members of the media in Maine, the site's gotten thousands of hits and the logs show there's a large and growing number of people that check in several times a day (you know who you are - thanks for stopping by).
Making a website "a more accessible and engaging tool for Democratic activism" isn't just about the software, however. It's going to take a commitment from Democratic leaders to be more open and engaged with the members of their party. Dean didn't get netroots support because he had a cool website, he got it because his campaign manager and members of his staff were willing to actually get online and talk with their supporters.
For an example of how this can work in Maine, one needs look no further than Sam Spencer's open forum he created to discuss the race for DNC Chair, where hundreds of democrats came together to discuss the future of their party. Yesterday, Spencer announced that all four Maine members of the DNC have backed Howard Dean (press release here) - by the way, there's still nothing about that on the Maine Democratic Party site. I hope Spencer continues to communicate with Maine democrats online (one post does not a weblog make) and I hope the rest of the party leadership follows his lead.
Visit the new Maine Politics.