- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) Democrats admit it. They don't really need iMac computers throughout the convention hall to tally the votes for Al Gore.
But the computers sure look cool, one of many signs this is a high-tech convention.
Solar energy helps power the hall. Voter.com kiosks allow delegates to keep track of meetings and parties. Donated cars have global positioning systems. Two-way pagers connect reporters, conventioneers and organizers with their home offices.
All in all, Democrats say, it adds up to the highest-tech gathering of its kind.
"You hear 'first-ever' a lot at this convention," said Peter Ragone, spokesman for the convention. "You see the future of American politics."
Powering it all: Some 700 computers inside the Staples Center, where Democrats opened their convention today, 6.5 million feet of fiber-optic and coaxial cable, 7,000 to 8,000 telephone lines, 6,000 to 7,000 miles of copper cable for telephones and 500,000 feet of computer cable.
Some of the gadgetry is more functional than others, but organizers hope it all helps create the image of a party of the future.
Nothing personifies the steeped traditions of a convention like the roll call of the states, where, one by one, delegates brag on their local sports teams, agriculture, tourist sites and politicians.
This year, the bragging will be followed by a click of the mouse, as delegates cast their votes for Gore over the Internet, the same system that allowed Arizona Democrats to vote online in their primary this year.
Given that the final tally is likely to be nearly unanimous, computers aren't really needed to keep track, allows Joseph T. Mohen, chief operating officer of Election.com, which created the online voting system.
"It's symbolic. It's trying to be historic," he said. "It's really to demonstrate the commitment to the Internet."
So when cameras pan the convention hall, they'll see 56 iMac Apple computers across the floor, alongside the tall, three-sided signs that identify each state's delegation.
The computers also let convention organizers and the Gore campaign keep in touch with each delegation by sending messages about changes in the program or talking points to guide conversations with reporters.
A solar energy system is providing nearly 15 percent of the power needed, with massive solar panels installed on the center's roof.
Then there's the Internet, which Democrats are embracing with both arms. Today, the vice president's daughters, Karenna and Kristin, held an online news conference, though reporters could also watch it inside the arena, the old-fashioned way.
Speakers on the podium are required to spend 15 minutes after their addresses answering questions on the convention's Web site.
And the site, www.dems2000.com, features four 360-degree "be here" cameras, where users can control the viewing angle.
General Motors is donating 400 cars to the convention, and some of them feature global positioning systems to help visitors navigate Los Angeles' maze of highways.
The car company also offered a handful of Democrats in Congress a chance to drive around in the EV1, a two-seater electric car. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon checked it out over the weekend and planned to take it for a spin later this week.
This being California, the convention's parking lots have electric charging stations in place to fill him up.


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