Archives For Volunteering

At ONA14 in Chicago in late September we unveiled the new OpenElections data download interface. We presented at the Knight Foundation’s Knight Village during their office hours for featured News Challenge projects, as well as during a lighting talk. OpenElections’ Geoff Hing and Sara Schnadt showed off their handiwork based on in-depth discussions and feedback from many data journos. The crowd at ONA was receptive, and the people we talked to were keen to start having access to the long awaited data from the first few states.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.47.55 PM

As you can see from the data map view above, there are only three states that have data available so far. These are Maryland, West Virginia and Wyoming, for which you can download ‘raw’ data. For our purposes, this means that you can get official data at the most common results reporting levels, with the most frequently used fields identified but without any further standardization. We will have ‘raw’ data on all the states in the next few months, and will work on having fully cleaned and standardized data on all the states after this initial process is complete.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.48.12 PM

As things progress, you will see updates to both the map view and the detailed data view where you can see the different reporting levels that have data ready for download so far.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 4.30.19 PM

A pink download icon indicates available data, and a grey icon indicates that data exists for a particular race at a particular reporting level, but that we don’t yet have it online.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 4.28.56 PM
The race selection tool at the top of the page includes a visualization that gives an overview of all the races in our timespan, and a slider for selecting a date range to review races in the download table. For states like Maryland (shown in the full page-view above), there are only two races every two years so this slider isn’t so crucial, but for states like Florida (directly above), this slider can be useful.

We encourage you to take the interface for a spin, and tell us what you think! And, if you would like to help us get more data into this interface faster, and you are fairly canny with Python, we would love to hear from you. You can learn more about what this would entail here.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.10.01 PM

As part of National Day of Civic Hacking, we are organizing an OpenElections challenge for the hacking events at locations all over the country – Sat May 31 and Sun June 1st.

If you are attending one of these events near you, and would like to join in on our effort to write scrapers for elections results, let us know!

Write Scrapers for us…
Help us extend our core scraper architecture to create a series of custom scrapers that account for the idiosyncrasies in how each state structures data, stores it, and makes it available.

**Our docs for this process are now up on our site. Look here to see what would be involved with joining in**

Your time and expertise would be most appreciated either day. Also, feel free to join in from home.

If you would like to help out, email sschnadt.projects@gmail.com either or tweet at us @OpenElex either before the event or on the day. Our team will be online and available to get you set up.

Thank you!

The OpenElections Team

(source: money.cnn.com)

Last week was an eventful one for OpenElections: We tapped into a brain trust of election data experts, got amazing feeback on v1 of our results format, and designed a bit of swag for our volunteers 🙂

On Tuesday Derek and Serdar presented OpenElections to IEEE’s P1622 working group, a collection of deeply knowledgeable and passionate election data experts from the public and private sectors.

The group is working to create a common data standard for all voting machines (starting with the US, but also internationally). Very exciting stuff.

We’re fortunate that the P1622 group is enthusiastic about OpenElections. Numerous members have offered to share technical expertise as we embark on our process of gathering certified results from past elections. They’ve swelled the ranks of our Google Group in the last week, helping to spark robust discussion about our first election results spec. And they’ve shared amazingly detailed suggestions for improvements. Derek plans to incorporate many of their ideas into an updated results spec (stay tuned for a blogpost later this week).  Meantime, additional feedback is most welcome!

Also, this week, we scheduled our first metadata gathering sprint for April 27, 10am-1pm PDT/1-4pm EDT (more coming on this shortly). And, most importantly, we finalized the design for our OpenElections T-shirt. It comes in mens, and curvy girly sizes.

Join our metadata sprint and you too can have one! Email us to learn more.

Bugler

It’s time. Come one, come all – election nerds, data hounds, open government advocates. Join the growing list of OpenElections volunteers who are helping to capture election results from all 50 states. We’re still looking for folks to join the effort, so if you’d like to help out, let us know which state (or states) you would like to work on.

More than one person can work on a state as a metadata gatherer or in actually obtaining and sending us the results data. So, if you are interested in working on a state that has already been adopted, let us know that too.

For each state, we will first inventory the metadata (the data about the data) for statewide and federal races from 2000 onward. This process will identify how election results are archived in each state. We expect formats to run the gamut, from clean, machine-readable CSVs to scanned image PDFs of hand-written results. This process will also give us a snapshot of the elections that took place, including edge-cases such as special elections and recalls.

We plan to initially focus on statewide and federal races rather than local elections. The goal is to document the data about the elections that took place in each state, including details such as tabulation level of results (precinct, legislative district, county, etc). All these details will be entered into a centralized data admin. You can learn more about hunting down and entering data in the admin in the nitty gritty section. Most importantly, we’re asking volunteers to not just snag data from election agency websites, but to call agency officials to identify the best possible data source.

All of this hard work will get us to the moment of truth – how big a task have we actually set ourselves?

After the metadata is entered into our admin, we’ll devise a strategy to gather results from all states and make them available to the public. Volunteers will assess the data formats for their state(s) and then get the data into our project Dropbox. The work of processing of all of this data will be done by the OpenElections team, but once we have assessed the best strategy for standardizing it, there may be some work to be done here too for more technical volunteers. But, for now, the big push is to get going on the metadata.

If you’d like to join our effort to increase transparency of the democratic process in the US, please contact us at openelections@gmail.com and we’ll set you up with data admin access so you can start gathering metadata. If you’ve already signed up, we’ll be in touch soon with your login credentials.