In preparation for the 2014 election season, search engines Bing and Google have both launched a set of tools to help out voters and provide quick access to relevant and useful information. These developments demonstrate how search engines can evolve into a centralized channel of knowledge, essential to the livelihood of a healthy democracy.
Bing’s official election website is in fact a collection of tools embedded directly above search results, called up when a user enters one of a number of relevant keywords. The URL itself redirects to results for the phrase “US elections 2014 predictions.” According to a Bing blog post, the company is dedicated to objectivity and as such the latest news and developments will be provided “from the right, left and center perspectives.”
An interactive map allows users to zoom in on a particular state for information on the Congressional and gubernatorial races. A personalized Voter Guide provides side-by-side comparisons for candidates, but is only available in major metropolitan markets. In addition to seeing who the incumbent is for a particular position, users can also view poll results and election forecasts, provided by Bing Predicts. On Election Day, the map will even display data from exit polls in real time.
All of these helpful features along with the My Ballot function aim to leave no excuse for people not to vote. Based on the user’s location, My Ballot displays exactly what will appear on their ballot with additional information including propositions, candidate comparisons and more predictions powered by Bing Predicts. It will even point the user to nearby voting stations.
Google took a much more scattered approach, choosing to provide information as it is asked for instead of centralizing it all into one tool. Users simply need to search a question they have, such as “How do I vote?” or “What is my registration deadline?” Essentially, election information has been assimilated into Google’s effort to evolve into a “conversational search” engine, anticipating users’ needs and providing a short blurb with the most accurate information possible.
Both of these approaches intend to expand voter knowledge and improve voter turnout. As the Internet continues to play a larger role in the election process, these humble contributions from search engines may surprise the nation with how helpful they are toward achieving these goals.
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