WASHINGTON – Maryland voters are going on-line in record numbers to give their congressmen an earful on the impeachment of President Clinton.
Aides said e-mail to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, has more than doubled since the impeachment trial moved to the Senate this month, after House members saw their e-mail accounts swell with messages last month, when they took up the matter.
Mikulski’s office has been getting more than 500 messages a day — up from the usual 200.
While Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, has received a relatively modest 100 messages a day on the issue, aides said e-mail accounts for more than a third of the messages from constituents on impeachment. Many more e-mails came to Sarbanes during the House vote on impeachment, said spokesman Jesse Jacobs.
And Maryland’s senators are not alone.
The Senate’s Internet mail system strained to accommodate more than 500,000 messages per day for much of last week. E- mails from outside the Capitol stalled for several hours before reaching their destination, as servers filtered seven times the normal message load.
Once they arrived, Mikulski’s office found many were not even from Maryland. An aide said they are trying to find a way to screen messages from people who “have an e- mail list with all members of Congress” and are apparently mass-mailing their opinions.
Jacobs said about 60 percent of those e- mailing Sarbanes earlier this month either wanted the trial to end or were writing to support the president. By last week, he said, that number had jumped to 80 percent.
Mikulski’s e-mail was more evenly divided, aides said, although “being angry at him and wanting him removed from office are not synonymous.” Many constituents said they hoped the proceedings would be “fair and dignified.”
It was a sentiment that House members heard last month.
“Everybody that I’ve been in contact with believes the process was unfair,” said Elena H. Temple, press secretary for Rep. Albert R. Wynn, D-Largo.
Temple said Wynn’s office was inundated with e-mails — as well as phone calls, letters and faxes – in the week before the vote, with five out of six supporting Clinton.
E-mail traffic to Rep. Robert Ehrlich Jr., R-Timonium, soared from about 50 messages per day to 1,500 in the days before the vote, when the House computer system handled 1 million messages a day. Diane Baker, Ehrlich’s office manager, said two out of three of messages to the Baltimore County Republican called for impeachment.
The House web site, www.house.gov, received a total of more than 11 million hits in a three-day span, said Jason Poblete, communications director for the House Administration Committee.
But Hill staffers said many Maryland voters still voiced their opinion the old- fashioned way: They hit the phones. An aide to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said there were times in December when he “couldn’t transfer calls because there were not enough lines in the office.”
Two out of three calls to Cummings — most of them local — favored the president, but e-mail messages arriving from around the nation were more evenly divided, his aides said.
House aides said the wave of correspondence — electronic and otherwise — is subsiding just as the Senate ponders the impeachment matter. But they said they expect e-mail is here to stay.
“Consistently, the volume goes up,” said Baker, of Ehrlich’s office. “We’re getting a substantial amount of e-mail as more people get on the Internet.” — Capital News Service reporters A.C. Benson, Amanda Jones, Keri Mattox, and Beth Perretta contributed to this report.