An office by any other name…

Office_TagCloud

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Georgia has a Commissioner of Labor, a Superintendent of Education and an Attorney General among its statewide elected officers. In Kentucky, there’s an Auditor of Public Accounts. In Virginia, Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected separately.

One of the challenges for OpenElections is reconciling election results from all 50 states, and doing so in a way that allows our users to be able to get the data they want, even across states.

An obvious example is presidential elections, which essentially are 50 different elections for the same office. While it’s relatively easy to identify and reconcile the various ways states refer to the office of the President, doing so for the variety of statewide offices gets a little tricky:

  • Are a treasurer and a comptroller basically the same position?
  • How do we classify offices that seem to cover several jobs, like Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services?
  • While every state has an elected Governor, not every state has an Adjutant General (South Carolina) or a Mine Inspector (Arizona). How do we handle those?

And then there’s the different titles that state lawmakers hold. Clearly, we need some form of standardization that would allow users to easily compare certain types of statewide elected offices across states (or, crucially, across time within a state, since a number have revamped their offices). To that end, we’ve put together a list of some offices and some possible standardized names for them on our wiki.

As before, we’re asking our users and partners to weigh in – does our general approach make sense, or are we overlooking some other schema that would make our job easier? Whatever the case, let us know in our Google Group.