How Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant Are Reporting on Election Day: Updated
Voice assistants may be a source of Election Day updates this year in a way that has never been possible before. More than a third of American homes have at least one smart speaker, while smartphones host native and third-party apps to access all of the most popular voice assistants. With the stakes so high, every major tech platform has been announcing ways to limit the spread of misinformation, and how the voice assistants handle the election this year may set a precedent for their role in the coming years. We are asking Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri for election reports regularly and will update this story throughout Election Day and the vote counting.
Update: 7 p.m.
As polls start to close on the East Coast, the voice assistants shift to providing live updates when asked about the election. Siri gives a straightforward response about who is winning the most electoral votes, citing the Associated Press and a link to Apple News. Google is also using the AP to share who is in the lead, skipping the links to news stories this time when asked on a device with a screen. Alexa, though again turning to the AP for data, shares a much longer answer than the other two. Along with the presidential update, Alexa offers the latest numbers in the House and Senate races at a national level without specifically being asked.
Election Day Morning
As the last day of voting commenced, all of the voice assistants are fairly consistent in their responses to the requests, “what’s the status of the U.S. election,” “who has won the U.S. election,” and “tell me about the U.S. election.” They all maintain the same answers from over the last week or so. Siri responds by letting you know when the first results are in with a graphic comparing Electoral College numbers to the presidential candidates. Google Assistant is the coyest of the assistants, simply pulling up relevant news stories and Wikipedia articles with no real comment, perhaps because Google is being extra careful as a hub for search online as well as by voice. Alexa is effusive in comparison, with a chart from the latest polling average and comparisons of key swing states.
The responses are just the final facet of the many roles voice assistants have played during the election. All of them have served to answer questions about the election, building on previous offerings, and heavily focused on encouraging voting. Amazon started adding answers on political races to Alexa before the 2018 midterm elections, adding candidate information, polling logistics, and how to register to its database this year. Google Assistant uploaded its own election information focused on helping people get their votes in and had integrated the Google News AI into Google Assistant back in 2018. Meanwhile, Apple connected Siri to election data from Apple News and public sources in February, combined with an ABC News deal to do real-time video broadcasts through a Siri request on election nights.
Third-party voice apps have been a part of the story as well. California’s Secretary of State and VoiceXP launched the California Election Alexa skill to give information to people in the state about how to vote and the subsequent results. Meanwhile, IBM has been bringing its Watson AI to the election official’s end of things. The company offered 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 its operating state. Idaho and Louisiana have both augmented their services with Watson.