It’s Nov. 4, 2036. Looking to capitalize on the goodwill of his father’s two successful terms in office, Donald Trump, Jr. is leading the pack of politicians running for US President. After some quick Googling on your invisible wall-mounted computer, you have figured out who you want to vote for. But you don’t need to fire up your super hoverboard or personal drone-ship to vote: You can now go from Google’s search page right to voting. After a few more clicks, you’ve found the election page on Google’s site, done your civic duty while still in your pajamas, Tweeted about it, and are off to 3D-print yourself some breakfast.
Thankfully, it’s still 2016 and this scenario isn’t a reality yet. But a new patent awarded to Google today hints at a future where we can vote on anything right from our computers. Google’s patent is for a voting system built into its website that would allow users to find who is running for something, and vote for it without leaving Google.com.
In the patent, Google uses the example of a fictional talent show,”Top American Singer,” which has amazingly named contestants like Suzie Singer, Veronica Vocals, and Jimmy Sing-a-lot. Much like existing talent shows American Idol and The Voice, Google’s fictionalized show would let the general public vote on who it wants to progress in the talent competition. It’s a simple layout that’s not terribly different from the card system Google recently rolled out for political candidate searches for the 2016 US election. Users search for the competition, sign into a Google account, and then click on the person they want to vote for. They might see some more information about the person they want to vote for, such as videos Jimmy Sing-a-lot has released. Once they’re ready to vote, they click the button and it’s done.
Google’s patent is clearly intended for relatively inconsequential events, rather than national elections. But it does leave the door open for other options: “Example campaigns can include polls, elections, contests, marketing and the like.” Google has an entire website dedicated to showing political candidates how to most effectively buy advertising on its ad platforms, so perhaps future elections will begin and end with Google. There’s no guarantee that Google will turn this patent into a product—the company told Quartz that it holds patents on a variety of ideas and only some of which become products. And considering most states and many countries are still struggling with electronic voting, let alone online voting, it may be a long while before any tech giants have any say in how we vote.