The 2004 election saw a big rise in voter participation, particularly among the young generation. From my perch at Rock the Vote, I believe one reason the trend is finally moving in the right direction is the rise of such Internet tools as online voter registration. So I jumped at the chance to tell you about the new U.S. Election Guide in Google Earth.

If you’ve already turned on the guide as a layer in Google Earth, you might already have noticed the patriotic stars now adorning the U.S. map. There’s one for every congressional district. Click on the star and it opens a set of links to useful voter tools. First, you can click to register to vote. I love this because so many people still think that in order to register, you need help from a government employee or political activist. Wrong. You can register yourself to vote by getting your forms online and sending them in by mail. Spread the word!

Second, there are links to news, web and photo searches for candidates for the U.S. House and Senate races on November 7. Now, I think a squirrel could figure out which way to go on our presidential candidates and political parties. But an educated vote does require some Google searching, especially when candidates try so hard to blur the differences.

This is a promising direction for Google and I hope it’s the start of something big. I’m looking forward to the day when voter participation tools are ubiquitous online -- and for those of you with any inclination to get involved, there’ll be nothing standing in your way.