If you live in the U.S., or just follow along with the American political system, then you know Tuesday is Election Day. Because it’s 2016 and four years since the last election, American voters will be picking a new president, which is a pretty big deal not only for the U.S. but for the world at large.
It is no surprise, then, that so many people are looking for ways to keep up with all of Tuesday’s elections, from social media to news organizations to various search engines. One tool that offers up some real-time information on everything to do with the election is the collaborative reporting initiative Electionland and its Google Trends map tool, which is described by the Google News Lab.
Electionland uses a host of data sources to aggregate election information and provide insights into what is going on at polling locations around the country. Data is collected from Google Trends, social media, and election hotlines, and is pulled together in “the largest real-time comprehensive look into voting issues in U.S. history.”
Of particular interest to anyone concerned about issues with voting, such as voting machine errors or long lines at polling stations, the Electionland Google Trends map will provide a way to visualize polling information. The map utilizes the most relevant search terms that involve certain key voting concerns:
- Provisional ballots status, which is where a vote is accepted but only counted given particular circumstances
- Long lines at the polls
- Inactive voter status, defined as instances where issues exist in delivering a voter’s ballot paper
- Voting machine concerns
- Voter intimidation at the polls
These searches are pulled together and then presented on a real-time search trends map that lets a user directly visualize which issues are happening and where. Circles are overlaid on the map to indicate where voting issues are occurring in a city or town to a greater degree than the national average. Larger circles indicate a larger difference from the average. Throughout the day, the circles are adjusted as the data accumulates.
Users of the map can toggle issues on and off, and data will flash if search interest spikes, providing immediate feedback. A ticker along the bottom of the screen will provide information on the spikes that have occurred in the previous 15 minutes.
Electionland is intended to provide visibility to voting issues that might interfere with voters’ right to vote. The organization behind the map hopes to help ensure that access to voting is as open as possible and that the election results in the selection of candidates that accurately reflect voter preferences.