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How Google is helping Hurricane Sandy victims vote

Posting in Technology

Hurricane Sandy did more than displace residents in New Jersey, New York and other East Coast states. It devastated polling locations too, forcing U.S. election officials to make dozens of last-minute moves and prompting some high-tech action.

Some solutions fell into the low-tech category. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Monday allowing voters to cast affidavit ballots at polling site outside of their district, if they live in a county deemed a federal disaster area.

Then there are the more high tech solutions developed by Google and social media sites like Facebook and Foursquare to help folks find polling stations, many of which have been moved.

The Google Doodle today in the United States is the word "Google" written out using ballots, in equally blue and red colors (pictured above). Click on the link, and users are brought to a voter information search box. Facebook also has a polling location search tool.

Google's Voting Information Tool and search onebox lets users look up their polling place. Users can also view primary results, Internet search trends of the candidates and consumer survey results. There's even a nifty interactive graphic that allows you to search ad spending, fundraising and travel expenses for Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama on a state-by-state basis.

One of Google's API users, Mobile Commons built a custom instance of an SMS-based polling place locator to allow voters to send a test for the information. New Jersey voters can text "WHERE" to 877-877, while New York voters can text "NYCVOTES" to the same number for updated locations.

Even 1980s-era tech is getting in on the action. New Jersey residents displaced by Sandy can vote by fax (and email) until 8 p.m. Nov. 6, CBS News reported.

Faxing and emailing ballots isn't unprecedented. And to be clear, emailing a ballot is not online voting. Many states, including Arizona and North Carolina, allow voters in the military or those who live overseas to fax or email ballots. By either method, voters must fill out the ballot and fax or scan and email it back.

Photo: Google

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— By on November 6, 2012, 3:26 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure