We ask Google for information, instructions, and directions everyday, so why not ask it how to vote? No, not which candidate to vote for, but how to register, when and where to go to the polls, and other information that's specific to our locality.
After all, the United States may be the world's greatest democracy, but it is also the world's greatest patchwork of local laws and customs and few things differ more from one place to another than local registration and voting procedures.
Google is riding to the rescue with what it calls an in-depth search result when consumers use the search term "how to vote." You may have to specify which state you're in but, let's be honest, Google pretty much knows everything about you, so it will most likely get it right even without your input.
Here's what Google coughed up when we asked it how to vote in hotly contested Virginia:
Google isn't the only company to think of doing this, of course, but it is by far the largest and most far-reaching. Google's special search does seem to downplay one vital piece of information -- whether you're already registered to vote, although it does provide accurate information on how to register, although it provides an obscure link under the heading "More voting info." The link will take you to your state voter registration site.
Whether you are already registered is something you can also find out at Vote.org, which has an "Am I Registered to Vote" search function that will take you to your state registrar. We tried that out as well and found that, sure enough, it had our voter info, including precinct number, polling place, and hours of operation.
Will Google's efforts make a difference this year? No one can really say. Experts already disagree on whether to expect a record turn-out this year. Since both candidates have sky-high unlikeability ratings, you can argue it either way.
Some say that since both candidates are roundly despised by a significant slice of the popular, turn-out will be low. Others say it will be high, for just the same reason, theorizing that those who really, truly, vehemently dislike one candidate may be highly motivated to go vote for the other one.
Who's right? We'll know in a few months.