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Google helps US voters with maps to polls

Google Maps aims to improve voter turnout

As the US presidential election day gets closer, Google has created a website, based on Google Maps, to help voters find the location of their polling places by typing in an address and clicking a search button.

In an announcement on Google's blog, the new mapping service was launched to assist voters who might skip the November 4 election because they didn't know where to vote.

"It's hard to believe that in 2008, information so important to US citizens and the democratic process isn't well organised on the web," said the blog entry posted by JL Needham, a member of Google's public-sector content partnerships department, and Abe Murray, a Google product manager. "To solve this problem, we've released our US Voter Info site, an effort to simplify and centralise voting locations and registration information."

The site uses Google Maps and allows a visitor to enter an address and get results that provide the location of the voter's polling place.

The map site was created by Google Maps in partnership with state and local election officials, the Voting Information Project, the League of Women Voters and others, according to Google.

Mobile phone users can get the same information by going to m.google.com/elections or searching for the word vote with their addresses on Google Maps for Mobile.

Google also offers the mapping site code for free to groups that want to include it on their websites, according to the company.

This isn't the first Google tool aimed at the upcoming elections. The search firm recently created an interactive map where visitors can track the latest projected US electoral vote totals for the presidential candidates, based on the latest voter-preference polls. Using the site, visitors can get a real-time look at how the electoral votes are stacking up for the candidates as Election Day approaches.

Google also created a web page with legal information site FindLaw.com where prospective voters can find out whether their states have laws that allow them to take time away from work to vote.

Dorothy Chou, an election team spokeswoman for Google, said the new sites were created after Google researchers found information in the 2004 US census revealing that many Americans didn't vote because they didn't know where to cast their ballots. Others said they couldn't take time off from work to vote, she said.

"So we basically put together these two maps to remedy that situation," she said. Google researchers also saw that many people in 2004 and in this year's primary elections conducted Google searches looking for that kind of information, Chou said.

"We found that more and more people are going online for this information, rather than making phone calls [to local election officials], which I think is standard all around," she said.

Earlier this year, Google also launched a new project, Google Power Readers In Politics, that allows internet users to follow stories read by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama in the Google Reader RSS tool.

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