Ask Google Assistant to Find Out How to Vote
Google has launched new features to help people in the U.S. figure out how to vote in this year’s elections. The new information will be incorporated into Google Assistant via the Search and Maps services, accessible on Google’s smart speakers and smart displays as well.
Asking Google Assistant for places to vote or ballot boxes to drop off a completed ballot prompts the voice assistant to use your location to find nearby places to do so. The answers can also be found typing the question into Google Search or Maps. The AI understands the various permutations of the question, so asking about drop boxes or polling places will bring the same list. The location chosen is based on where the device is, so if you ask Google Assistant about where to vote, it will remind you that the locations nearby are only for if you’re registered to vote there, and you should check where you are able to register first.
“This year, searches for “how to vote” in the U.S. are higher than ever before. To make it easier to find information about how and where to vote—regardless of your preferred voting method—we’ve launched election-related features with information from trusted and authoritative organizations in Google Search,” Google product manager Yunhan Xu explained in a blog post. “Just as easily, you’ll soon be able to ask, “Hey Google, where do I vote?” and Google Assistant will share details on where to vote nearby on your Assistant-enabled phone, smart speaker, or Smart Display.”
The new features are part of an arrangement with the non-profit Democracy Works, which works with state election officials to organize the Voting Information Project data. The list is also getting updated continually and should have more than 200,000 voting locations included by Election Day.
Voice Vote Guide
Google Assistant’s new answers make it an immediate aid for helping people get their votes in, but it’s not the only voice AI offering to help with the election. In February, Apple gave Siri the ability to answer questions about elections using information from Apple News and public sources to share details about upcoming elections and on-going results. Apple also has a special deal with ABC News to do real-time video broadcasts through a Siri request on election nights. Google integrated the Google News AI into Google Assistant back in 2018 for a similar purpose. Amazon gave Alexa answers on political races starting before the 2018 midterm elections, including ballot information and voter registration rules. Alexa upped its election database this year with info about candidates, polling, debates, and how to register. However, unlike Google Assistant, asking Alexa how to vote simply gives information about the necessity of voting, with a link on smart displays and smartphones to the different state election websites.
From the other direction, IBM’s Watson AI is sharing information on voting through official state channels. IBM offers an election-focused version of Watson to states for free that can answer phone calls from people who want answers about how to vote. The AI, which integrates into chatbot and voice platforms, can answer basic voting questions, customized to the state where it is operating. So far, Idaho and Louisiana have taken IBM up on its offer.