Google Launches 2008 Election Website Before Political Conventions

By Jennifer Parker

Aug 18, 2008 2:30pm

ABC News’ Jennifer Parker and Steven Portnoy report: With a week to go before Democratic delegates and media from around the world converge on Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Google Inc has launched a 2008 election website and three new applications that Google argues will help voters get political information online.

Google will also have a presence at both the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver Aug 25 – 28 and the Republican convention the week after in Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sept 1-Sept. 4.

"We will be helping voters find information online and helping the parties themselves to connect with voters and draw them in," said Bob Boorstin, director of corporate and policy communications at Google.

The new Google 2008 election Web site features a new YouTube elections video search that asks "What did the candidates say?" which allows users to put in search terms such as "national security" and find exactly where in speeches the candidates said the words.

Using speech recognition technology, the tool allows users to pinpoint the search terms in the videos posted to YouTube, which is owned by Google.

During a presentation to reporters in Washington DC, Google employees said the application helped Hugh Atkin create a mashup YouTube video montage of Obama seeming to sing Rick Astley’s "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Another new feature on the Google election site is a "PowerReaders" application which aggregates political news stories on the web that candidates and a select handful of political reporters are reading.

The Web site allows the campaigns to point users to stories they find appealing and suggests Republican Sen. John McCain has recently read the Wall Street Journal, Arizona Republic, Drudge Report, ESPN, Forbes, and Fox News.

According to the website, Democrat Sen. Barack Obama is reading the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, ESPN, Talking Points Memo, Barack Obama Blog, Daily Show.

When reporters pointed out McCain has had difficulty using the Internet, Google’s Robby Stein admitted the McCain campaign provided the list.

"We work very closely with the campaigns and this is what they’re reading," Stein said.

The website also allow users to see what a select handful of political reporters, including Politico’s Mike Allen, Time’s Mark Halperin, Slate’s John Dickerson are reading and link to stories they deem interesting. 

"This will be a way for people to learn about the candidates, the campaigns, and journalists in a very personal way," Stein said.

A third new feature — produced in coordination with the Pew Center’s www.electionline.org — will be a voter information application which allows voters to look up polling places near their address and view state-by-state information about voter registration.

Google and YouTube will also have a heavy physical presence at both the Democratic and Republican conventions featuring — in classic Google style — free smoothies, massages, and "fireside" policy chats. They also plan to have YouTube "upload booths" where delegates and bloggers can upload their own photos and video from the convention.

"Primarily the Google area is going to be a filing place for new bloggers and citizen journalists," said Google’s Niki Fenwick, who used to work with the McCain campaign.

Google said the new applications are part of their effort to enhance the search giant’s involvement in U.S. politics and, ultimately, to become as central to the electoral process as Google and YouTube have been to media usage.

"Our goal is to help voters find political information as quickly as possible," said Google’s Ginny Hunt.

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