Multinational technology giant, Google, has submitted a patent to the United States Patent and Trademark Office outlining a concept for an online voting system built into its website. The system would allow users to find out who is standing in an election, and to vote for them without leaving Google.com.
One of the advantages Google claims their system will have is that ‘users can be more informed in the votes they make based on information surfaced in search results.’ The example included in the patent is of an an American Pop Idol style contest. The drawing displays a search page called ‘Vote for the Top American Singer’ and includes images, news, and search results related to the ‘Top American Singer’ contest. It is a similar concept to Google’s ‘candidate cards’ idea it has been experimenting with during the 2016 US Presidential election.
There is no guarantee that the concept, which also covers voter-authentication, will become a product, as Google may decide instead to simply hold onto the patent.
The move underlines a growing consensus towards online voting amongst major global technology companies.
Companies submitting evidence in favour of online voting to the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy in the UK last year included Microsoft, and senior figures from cyber-security giants Intel, McAfee, and Symantec have also voiced their support.
Submissions to WebRoots Democracy’s ‘Secure Voting’ report published last month included Verizon, as well electronic voting companies such as Electoral Reform Services, Scytl, and Smartmatic, and eminent computer scientists Professor Robert Krimmer and Dr Kevin Curran.
Recent polls in the UK have shown that the majority of the population want an online voting option to be introduced, and that if it were to be introduced, it would be the most popular method of voting. Research by WebRoots Democracy has found that the potential benefits of online voting include increased voter participation, greater accessibility for those with vision impairments and other disabilities, and the elimination of accidentally spoilt ballots.
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