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Did Google Polling App Mislead Voters?

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on November 04, 2010 1:20 PM

The Google polling app was supposed to be a convenient way for users to track down their nearest polling station to vote in the recent elections. Unfortunately, not all the directions were accurate, and the app ended up misleading voters, creating the potential that some (or many) were unable to vote.

As many as 727,000 households in 12 states may have been misled by the polling location technology, according to Fast Company. The Google polling app draws its data from the Voting Information Project as well as various elections agencies. In theory, the app is supposed to allow a user to type in their address and then have a list of the closest polling locations and hours within seconds of pressing submit. In reality, the addresses had a high error rate in some states.

Voter turnout is a constant struggle as numbers are often under 50% for a given election day. Technology should not be contributing to this low figure but helping to stimulate it. "For people in this business, there are few things you lose sleep over more than sending people to the wrong polling place on election day," John Phillips told Fast Company.

Although it is unclear whether the misinformation led to a lost chance at voting, if that were the case, could someone sue for that? Google is not the official site for finding a polling location, but merely a resource. An individual would likely have a better case if he or she looked to the official election site and was somehow mislead and ultimately prevented from voting. From the Voting Rights Act (to protect against racial discrimination in voting) to the National Voter Registration Act, there are laws in place to encourage and protect a citizen's right to vote.

With the Google polling app, the right to vote was not blocked. Uses might just have been hindered or delayed by bad information. The beauty of technology and the internet is that there are endless resources for information. Put differently, the inquiry did not need to stop with the Google polling app. Hopefully when the directions led to a dead end, voters turned to another source rather than going home.

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