Updates! Updates! Updates!

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Updates – Illinois State Board of Elections

The omnibus election bill passed late last year requires that after election day each election authority must report the number of uncounted ballots to the State Board of Elections and the SBE must make this data available on their website. You may remember that the 2014 Illinois State Treasurer’s race was too close to call after all of the ballots were counted on election night and the outcome of that race remained in doubt for some time as the vote by mail, early vote and same day registration votes had to be counted before the official winner was determined. Keeping track of the developments in that ballot counting process was difficult because in some cases it was difficult to get information about how many ballots still needed to be counted by each election authority. Hopefully this process will be easier to follow if a similar situation arises in the future as more data will be publicly available.

Since that law went into effect a special election was held to fill the vacancy in the 18th congressional district. In accordance with the new law each election authority sent the State Board of Elections the data about uncounted ballots and the SBE displayed this data on their website, as required. To navigate to this page on the Illinois State Board of Elections website you can go:

Home –> Reporters (top nav bar) –> Uncounted Ballots (center column)

 

Updates – Illinois Election Data

Over the last few months I have updated this website’s various sections with data from both the 2014 general election as well as the 2015 Chicago municipal elections. Additionally I had long been planning to make changes to almost every part of this site and I finally put the work in to do that. Here is a rundown of all the new changes along with a detailed explanation for each.

  • New Look and Feel: the visual layout and design of this website used to look like a 4 year old drew it in crayon. I have made wholesale changes and incorporated a modified version of the Bootstrap framework and it now looks more like a 9 year old drew it in washable marker, which I’m told is an improvement.
  • 2014 Election Cycle Budgets: data now available in the budgets section for all of the 2014 election cycle statewide candidates as well as the targeted congressional races.
  • 2014 Election Cycle Statewide Race Maps: maps now available in the maps section for all of the statewide candidates from the 2014 general election. For example here is the map of Bruce Rauner’s victory by county.
  • 2015 Chicago Municipal Election Maps (general and runoff): maps now available in the maps section for all of the Chicago municipal candidates from the 2015 general and runoff elections. For example here is the map of Rahm Emanuel’s victory by ward in the runoff.
  • New Budgets Back End: the budgets section is a tremendous tool for campaign managers (or designated budget staffers) that can display the past monthly campaign fundraising and spending for so many statewide and congressional races. All of this data used to be static, it was copied and pasted from database work done offsite. Now I have completely rebuilt this section using onsite data hosted in a backend database and the data displayed is derived from calculations run on that database. This work has two advantages, 1) fewer chances for copy/paste errors meaning the displayed data is more likely to be accurate and 2) for those users wishing to study the data more closely you can now quickly see all of the receipts and all of the expenditures in a table that is easy to filter and has a one-touch download button so you can easily download all of the individual transactions and perform whatever further analysis you would like on the underlying data.
  • Reduced Reliance on Google: in order to get this site up and running when it was first launched I used a lot of Google tools to keep from having to do a lot of initial design work, for example I often embedded/displayed data in a Google Spreadsheet instead of displaying data in a formatted HTML table. It didn’t look good then and later when Google made some changes to how they display embedded Google docs it looked even worse. I have since gone back and taken the time to fully develop each section and reduced the reliance on various Google tools and overall most areas are just better now. The lone key exception is the Maps section, all of the vote total maps are overlaid on Google Maps which is still by far my preferred method.

Updated Data: Campaign Budget Reports

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A little late but as promised I have updated the BUDGETS section. I had previously made available monthly fundraising and spending budgets (along with monthly payroll and weekly media buys) for about 12 competitive Illinois congressional races in the last few cycles. I had promised to update that report library with the 6 competitive congressional races from the 2012 cycle as well as go back and create the same reports for statewide races.

In order to produce these reports I downloaded the transaction data from the electronically filed reports of the candidates and then went through them line by line and assigned them to their proper budget section. Now not only are the latest congressional races included but I included every major party candidate for constitutional office (Gov, Lt. Gov, AG, SOS, Comptroller and Treasurer) from the 2010, 2006 and 2002 cycles (roughly 75 candidates). Further I created some quick glance tables in case you just want to look at the overall total raised/spent, and I put the entire database of transactions online. If you want to query all of the individual transactions I used to create these reports you can now copy that data for your own files and use it to build your own custom reports.

Even if you consider yourself a political junkie you may not find this part of the site particularly useful. It is really most helpful for campaign staffers who have to manage their campaign budget, usually just a campaign manager and/or an operations director. But for the candidates and staffers responsible for creating a campaign budget and managing the campaign’s spending decisions this data is almost invaluable and will save you hours while trying to figure out how other past campaigns have managed the same challenges.

The data includes three types of reports, 1) monthly campaign budgets; 2) monthly payroll budgets and 3) weekly general election paid media (mostly/usually television). There are a number of reasons this information can be useful. If you are running your campaign well you are going to try to keep your payroll and operating costs to a bare minimum, but it is helpful to know just how low you can reasonably keep those operating expenses and it’s valuable to see when other campaigns started hiring employees and/or incurring expenses.

Another issue that financial planners struggle with is figuring out how much your campaign will be able to spend on paid media and when to start spending. It’s helpful to see when other comparable races started their paid communication and it’s very helpful to see how comparable campaigns did in their fundraising in the final weeks/months of the campaign. You will almost certainly start spending your paid media budget before knowing how much money will still come in during the remainder of the campaign. You will have to make some estimates/predictions and you are going to want to base those estimates on comparable data if possible.

Campaign Raised/Spent Quick Glance

Here you will find quick glance tables listing the amount raised and spent during the election cycle for every statewide campaign and the key congressional races in my database.

Campaign Budget Reports

Here you will find monthly campaign budget reports, monthly payroll reports and weekly (fall) media buy reports for every statewide campaign and key recent congressional campaigns.

Campaign Budget Database

You may be curious about the individual transactions that were aggregated to assemble these campaign budget reports. Here you can query the database of individual transactions I used to build these reports including the various data fields I appended when I went through these transactions line by line. Every bit of data I have is available here. With this data you can build your own custom reports to suit your needs.

Like any other data set this one has limitations and caveats so if you’re planning to study this highly specialized data it’s probably worth your time to be aware of the additional information provided in the FAQ.