Home Scandal and Gossip Google May Have Sent 700,000 Voters to Incorrect Polling Places

Google May Have Sent 700,000 Voters to Incorrect Polling Places


If you’re grieving over which ‘mamma grizzly’ did or didn’t get elected maybe it’s time to blame Google (our favorite corporate scapegoat), who according to political technology company Artistotle, sent more than 700,000 people in 12 battleground states to incorrect polling places this Election Day.

The issue is at best highlighted by Aristotle CEO John Phillips who calls the 700,000 plus errors “a pretty big deal,” especially considering that at the time of this article’s publication there remain races ‘too close to call.’

Politico reports: Aristotle premised its prediction on a series of simulations: The company selected about 1,000 households in targeted states, compared their polling place data against Google’s app and derived an error rate it later used to predict the number of area households possibly affected by the mishap.

Isn’t this an example of a corporation effecting an election in a hitherto entirely unforeseen manner, and wouldn’t Google, with all its alleged data mining antics, be just the company capable of selectively sending voters to the wrong location?

Which reminds us given Google’s own policies of penalizing those entities for misappropriating data online shouldn’t they too be flagged? Not to mention other bad business etiquette at the hands of entities like McDonald’s with its curt reminders to employees?

While it’s no doubt unfair to pass the blame on Google for what is ultimately (we hope) human error and one’s own responsibility, we can probably all agree that Google should be held to higher standards if we’re going to trust it with the business of determining whether we make it to our allotted polling place — no matter our political party.

Still one can’t help but wonder about that almost certainly benign statistic this report seems unable to specify: just how many of these 700,000 misdirected voters were in each political party? Shouldn’t we wonder (and rather loudly) if things may have been different had everything gone smoothly?



  1. Indeed, you’re right, it’s your job to ask uncomfortable questions. It’s just a bit frustrating when I *know* the source of so many of the errors – stupid programming errors on my part!

    Oh, just to clarify, I’m not a Google employee, just a frequent contractor, and I don’t speak for Google in any way. My part of the voter information app is the web application/gadget itself, and its code is Open Source:


    The complete revision history is there, so if I did sneak in any tricks to mislead people, that’s where you’ll find them!

    Hey, BTW, I owe the President a beer for sending him and the First Lady to the wrong polling place. Want to join us?

  2. Thanks for posting my previous comment. I wasn’t sure if you would. It shows that you’re an honorable person.

    Yes, I was feeling a bit hot-headed. Who wouldn’t be, after working so hard only to see their work attacked on multiple websites – and not just being accused of sloppy work but of actual fraud?

    Let’s remember the old saying, “Never attribute to malice that which you can attribute to stupidity.”

    A concrete example: Many of the polling place errors were the result of my attempt to “geocode” (locate on the map) the polling place’s full address including zip code.

    It turns out that you’ll get better results in many cases by *omitting* the zip code. In fact, including the zip code in my geocoding requests was what led to a fair number of the mapping errors. I wish I’d known this a lot sooner! 🙁

    We live and learn, and do the best we can in the meantime.

    Take care, and thanks for keeping us on our toes,


  3. Michael

    We can only wonder whose concerns Google is engendering? It’s what we in the media do. That said let me ask you this with – “So much at stake and given the debacle in the Florida elections years ago with ‘chad tickets,’ don’t you think your entity with it’s omnipresent presence and surrogate position of ‘super power’ of the internet to double check and triple check such serious information?”

    Wouldn’t you be disappointed to use a metaphor, if the doctor you went to see for a health concern misdiagnosed an ailment you might have had and thus pre empted your healthy recovery?

    You bear a great responsibility Mike, but ultimately we the citizens have to accept our own culpability even if we choose to hold entities such as yours to the hightest regard.

    The Editor.

  4. You know, I take a bit of personal offense at this. I busted my butt for weeks before the election trying to make our voter information app the best I could make it, and deliver the most accurate information to as many voters as we could.

    Did I and the team at Google do a perfect job? No. Did we make mistakes? You bet.

    But here you have the gall to suggest that I *manipulated* the results to achieve some political end?

    I do not appreciate being insulted like that.

    And what on earth makes you thing that I or the folks at Google had *time* to do such a thing?

    Tell you what. Next election, we’ll trade places.

    You go do all the hard work. You stay up all night knowing that if you get it wrong, the voters and the election won’t wait for you.

    And I’ll sit in my comfy chair on election day writing a cheap shot article accusing *you* of voter fraud.

    Fair trade?

    -Mike (author of the voter information map)

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