Google Earth app rocks the vote

Google has assembled a wealth of information about the upcoming U.S. general election and will display links to it on its Google Earth mapping application.

After Google turns on the links Sunday night, Google Earth users will see stars on the U.S. map wherever there is a race in the Nov. 7 election. A number of congressional seats and state governorships are up for grabs.

Clicking on a star opens up a bubble with information about races in that area and links to a variety of information resources, like the Web sites for the U.S. Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics's OpenSecrets.org, which gathers information about campaign contributions. Below each candidate are links that trigger Google Web, image and news searches about them.

"People can easily learn a whole lot about the candidates in their particular area just by browsing this layer on Google Earth," said John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Maps.

This is the first time Google has created an overlay of election-related links on Google Earth, and the company hasn't decided whether it will do this for every major election in the future, Hanke said.

Google Earth, one of the company's most popular products, is a free, downloadable application that taps into a massive database of satellite images and related information. Its video game-like interface lets users "fly" around the globe, zooming in and out of cities.

Google provides a variety of information overlays for the application, so users can display roads, borders, geographic features, restaurants, parks and hotels, to mention just a few of the options.

Google acquired the software in 2004 when it bought Keyhole. The Google Earth product family also includes more advanced, fee-based versions of the application designed for commercial uses.

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