For many Americans, the path to casting a vote is way rockier than it should be. Between (racist) new voter ID laws and government websites that haven’t been updated since the late Cretaceous, it hard to know how to register, where and when to vote, and what you need to bring. Heck, the rules were so confusing in New York during the primaries that even Ivanka Trump was unable to vote for her dad. That’s where Google’s newest search tool, which debuts this morning, comes in.
Next time you punch “how to vote” or “how to register” into Google’s search bar, all the tricky logistical details of your state’s specific electoral rigamarole will be spelled out in plain English. “The voting process is complicated and overwhelming,” says Emily Moxley, the project’s team lead and product manager. “Different websites have bits and pieces of the information people need, and it’s hard to tell if the information you’re looking at is up to date. So we collected everything into one location, in terminology that’s easy to grok.”
Google collected all that data with the help of law firm Perkins Coie and what Moxley calls “a fair amount of manual, painstaking work.” The Google team’s slogging is likely to be worth it though, because this is clearly information that people want. The Google-generated map below shows a real surge in voter registration interest since 2012, especially in the swing states and the Northeast, where it’s up over 100 percent at least.
The data doesn’t show why certain states are more energized than others (though we suspect that Senator Sanders may have had something to do with the 358 percent interest spike in Vermont), but it clearly shows that people want to participate. Nation-wide, interest in voter registration peaked at +190 percent within an hour of Hillary Clinton’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.
However you feel about the candidates and this most ridiculous season of political theater, more people than ever are political engaged online, and this new suite of voter-friendly tools may help them take that fervor out to where it really counts: the voting booth.