Citizens will become more influential participants in their government's decisions by making their views known via the Internet. Through electronic mail and bulletin boards, and instant feedback mechanisms, government officials can know more clearly what their constituents want. Some advocates of electronic democracy envision online elections and referendums.
The Internet makes it possible to efficiently reach large numbers of individuals who are potential political actors plays to the strengths of special interest groups and political action committees. The Internet is thus highly attractive to activists who value a populist approach as opposed to a republican approach that emphasizes electing representatives and influencing their positions.
The Internet has played an important role in several local US elections. In these, candidates were essentially forced online and put under the spotlight of determined questioning by voters. Other US political activists are using the utility of the Internet for sharing information and organizing their activities. For example, "LatinoNet, a non-profit advocacy group based in San Francisco, has created a service on America Online to help Latino organizations cooperate and lobby government officials. The open service, called LatinoNet, was praised by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. With LatinoNet up and running, we may soon see additional networks for ethnic lobbyists, such as Serbo-CroatNet, SlovakNet or BelarusNet.
Electronic democracy' is inspired by two overlapping dislikes – of bureaucrats and of politicians – and by two ideas for making these groups more likeable. The first conjures up a world where the grumpy civil servant behind a counter is replaced by an easy-to-follow screen that makes all the government's information available at the touch of a button. The second idea wants to make politicians as answerable and accessible to their constituents as Pericles was to the tiny Athenian democracy.
Voting on the creations of a new newsgroup is not quite the same as voting on the death penalty or abortion laws.