Innovative Ways to Share Election Data
September 08, 2020 by
Elections provide a treasure trove of data that can illuminate insights about voters, candidates, and elections themselves.
Counties and states are increasingly making elections data available to the public via open data portals, which gives access to information on the demographic composition of the electorate and the candidates those voters financially back.
Before the November election, Washington state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) launched a campaign finance dashboard, powered by Tyler’s Socrata. The dashboard gives the public an easy-to-use way to visualize the state’s campaign finance data, drill down into maps, and share those findings. That data, which is reflected by the candidate’s campaign, is updated hourly.
“Visuals help data come alive, and the PDC is proud to pioneer this new tool that makes campaign finance reports approachable and useful to more people,” said Executive Director Peter Lavallee.
Ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, we wanted to share a few examples of innovative uses of elections-related data powered by Tyler’s open data solution, Socrata.
By law, candidates must report who contributes to their campaigns and how the funds are spent, but how those reports are shared is not standardized. The information can easily be put in an Excel spreadsheet and then stored on a hard drive, which makes it difficult to use by the public, the media, and even government staffers. Instead, Hawaii chooses to share the data publicly, in easily digestible and shareable pie charts, graphs, and other visualizations, on its open data portal.
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to transparently sharing data on donations and spending in races for elected office. In this state, anyone — not just politics wonks or journalists — can follow the money trail and dig into the donations that fuel campaigns, as well as where candidates choose to spend their money. The app helps users track donations and spending across campaigns, candidates, and PACs.
Iowa is another state that provides information on financial contributions and in-kind donations to state and local candidates. Iowa’s dashboard, published in the form of a data story with additional context and charts, makes campaign contribution data available to the public in an easy-to-use, machine-readable format.
Absentee voting topped headlines earlier this year as elections officials grappled with hosting in-person primary voting and minimizing the public’s exposure to COVID-19. These discussions are ramping up again as the general election nears.
Fulton County, Georgia, created an absentee voting statistics dashboard for its August runoff election to share with the public information on absentee ballot applications and statistics of ballot return. The data includes whether ballot applications were delivered by mail or drop box, were rejected, or when they were processed.
Ramsey County, Minnesota, for example, shares elections data through the county’s open data portal, and highlights information around primary and general election voter turnout, absentee voting, voter engagement, election judges, and seasonal staffing.
Similar to Iowa, Ramsey County publishes data in its elections results dashboard as a data story, using Socrata Perspectives. The story gives the county the ability to add text and background information, as well as easy-to-navigate charts that link back to the underlying source data.
Women and Politics
Montgomery County shares quantitative data with the goal of creating better policies for women, girls, and families in the county. Among the Status of Women in Montgomery County report, the county’s Commission for Women explores the topic of women in elected office. The report also takes a deep dive into the 2018 primary election.