Google Earth Gets Political

Google today announced a Google Earth 2006 Elections Special layer
for their popular satellite mapping product.

Google Earth product manager Chikai Ohazama told the new KML (Keyhole Markup Language) layer
will draw lines for each different Congressional district.

In each district users will find red, white, and blue icons that open
a window with a candidate list as well as links to Google News,
Image, and Web searches for their names.

Spokesperson Megan Quinn said the Google Earth team is also working
on bringing real time results to those windows on election night.

Ohazama said the project is another to originate from Google’s famous
20 percent policy where the company’s engineers are allowed to explore their own projects for about 20 percent of their normal work hours.

Quinn said it all started with an political junkie engineer who
couldn’t easily find all the election information she wanted.

The result is a detailed and geographically organized listing of
every congressional candidate in the country.

Yes, the Pirate Party is fielding a candidate in the first district of Iowa.

Ohazama said that the KML layer will not require any
additional downloads for Google Earth users and should appear in
their application as early as today.

It’s not quite P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign, but Ohazama said
the new feature is likewise an effort to increase voter awareness
and turnout this fall.

“We want to get more people involved in the political process.”

He called it Google’s “civic duty.”

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