As debate rolls on over the impact of voter identification laws on elections in the United States, a new wrinkle has quietly been introduced: a little search engine you might have heard of called Google. Starting Thursday, users across the United States who use Google to search for information on whether they might need a driver’s license or other form of ID to cast a ballot at their local polling place will be presented with the nitty-gritty details of the oft-complicated voting identification requirements and laws — specified down to whatever spot in the country from which he or she happens to be searching.
The new results are part of a broader Google push to increase what we might call ambient civic awareness. Google searches for “How do I vote?,” for example, bring up the step-by-step process for casting a ballot, either in person or by mail, with details, too, on how to make sure a voter is registered.
For the first time, details about how voters go about voting are being integrated directly into Google search results. The goal is to use geo-targeting, in a country with a midterm election voting rate of about 37 percent, to knock down as many barriers as possible that might keep a citizen from submitting his or her vote.