Tomorrow, as Americans go to the polls, more than 650 journalism students, 450 journalists, 250 media organizations, two nonprofits and seven technology companies will come together to work on Electionland, a collaborative reporting initiative to provide insights into what’s taking place at polls across the country.
By collecting data signals from Google Trends, social media and election hotlines, Electionland will create the largest real time comprehensive look into voting issues in U.S. history. And for the first time during a U.S. Presidential election, Google Trends will be real-time. So we thought, what if we could use Google search trends data to see if, for example, there’s a search spike in a particular city for voting machine errors or long lines?
We created the Electionland Google Trends map to visualize the timely polling information that’s happening around the country. To ensure the map includes the most relevant trends, we compiled a list of ways English and Spanish-speaking voters might indicate voting issues through their search queries on Election Day, by looking at historical data from 2012 Election, Super Tuesday 2016, and early voting 2016. We combined hundreds of the most relevant search terms around the following voting issues:
- Provisional ballots status (where your vote is accepted but only counted in certain circumstances)
- Long wait times at polling stations
- Inactive voter status i.e., searches for voters were considered “inactive” if there were issues delivering their ballot paper.
- Voting machine issues.
- Voter intimidation at polling places, centered around searches for “how to report” possible intimidation.