In a patent submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Google has outlined a concept for real-time online voting, right on the Google home page.

The patent, submitted yesterday, is entitled “Social Voting-Based Campaigns in Search” and encompasses a voting user interface (VUI) that will enable a user to submit one or more votes in a voting-based campaign. It also proposes leveraging social content, social networking services, and search results with the VUI.

The advantages of Google’s proposed voting user interface are included in the submitted patent, and specifically reference providing a channel through which users can participate in voting-based campaigns, providing a more accurate reflection of user preferences, and by enabling voter participation right on the search page, the VUI “users can be more informed in the votes they make based on information surfaced in search results.”

The example provided by Google to the patent office showed a search page entitled “Vote for the Top American Singer”, with images, news, and search results related to the fictional “Top American Singer” program.

The patent includes a computer implemented voting method comprising user authentication, identifying user-indexed content through the search engine, identifying contestants, receiving votes, and identifying one or more social networking profiles and social content items relevant to the vote at hand.

Integration of online voting with a search engine could serve several functions at once. With integrated searches directly related to the voting question at hand, voters would be better informed about their choices. By processing votes in real time, user preferences would presumably be more accurately recorded and instantaneous with voting. Finally, by offering the capacity to submit a vote online, increasing the ease of voting could increase baseline voter participation.

In the example submitted, that of voting for a “Top Singer” on a reality show, Google offers a construct that most people are familiar with, having seen or heard of voting based reality shows in the past. However, an online voting system is a concept that many have debated for political uses. While some argue that increasing the ease of voting would increase voter participation, particularly in the youngest, technologically-savvy group of voters, others have argued that electronic voting (e-voting) and internet based voting (i-voting) is a method that is vulnerable to fraud, unnecessary, and expensive.