You know how it is. You spend vast amounts of money on your political campaign, and vast amounts of time from your unpaid volunteers, and then you come to your website, and, well, it's only a website, right? Those computer-y people are all the same. No reason to spend much time or effort on it.
This is the only conclusion I can come to from the general state of political websites.
I'd like to take a couple of examples. First, Sarah Palin's distasteful target website which was taken down in the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Griffords, presumably due to it being in rather poor taste to show an image of Griffords' congressional district in a rifle scope while listing her for replacement:
The website itself is done in Ruby on Rails, living on an Amazon EC2 machine, with the images also served from that machine. Now, the nature of this website, really, as far as I can see, is a shock site. It is intended to be passed around supporters to gawk at how great it is, and around civilised people to marvel at how awful Sarah Palin is. This means that it should expect serious traffic spikes, and that it should ideally be able to deal with this.
Of course, when the Griffords story hit, this was not the case. Within minutes the site slowed to a crawl, showed various Rails errors and nginx gateway errors, and then had its DNS records deleted. And why? Surely a large part of the reason was that it was a _dynamic_ site used for a purpose which could quite happily have been served by a static site. If it had simply been a series of HTML pages, with the images served from S3 or a CDN, then it would not have gone down remotely as easily. The site has no real dynamic content (unless Sarah logs in from her Blackberry to add new targets now and again) and would be far more easily scalable if it was static.
The second is Fine Gael's website. Now, Fine Gael is no stranger to website controversy, but they've perhaps hit a new low today; their new site has been hacked, apparently through an XSS exploit.
And then there was the US Republican Party website which had the amusing security issue where one could have a Flash version of Michael Steele gesture happily at pornography...
Politicians, your websites are not mere afterthoughts. You want to at least consider putting in a bit of effort into them, and maybe not farming them out to the lowest bidder. Otherwise, you end up looking very silly.