FAQ



Frequently Asked Questions

Maps

Vote Analysis

Budget

Live Illinois SBE Financial Data

Live FEC Financial Data

General



Maps

Why does the map say "Data May Still Be Loading"?
If your map says "Data May Still Be Loading" over the map just click the zoom in or out button and it should show. Sometimes Google doesn't load right away.


Why don't some precincts appear on my map?
Precincts don't show well at farther zoom levels. In many cases they are geographically small units so you see less and less as you zoom out. The closer you zoom in the better the view will be.


Do you have election results maps for primary elections?
Maps for statewide primary elections are now available.


Do you have election results maps for congressional and/or Illinois General Assembly elections?
Yes and no. Yes I have some but it's unlikely that I'll add them. There are 110 election authorities in Illinois (one in each county plus 8 municipal election authorities) so tracking down and formatting the precinct level election results can be a fairly involved process for districts that span multiple jurisdictions. More significantly in order to then map those results I need to have the electronic files for the precinct boundaries (in many cases those change significantly year to year)and only some of the larger-budget counties have them available. I'll go through all that trouble for clients and at times I'll help friends who bring me all of that data and just need it set up, but in either case I'll keep the output private. If we ever get to the point that gathering all the data is as easy as it is for statewide races then maybe I'll start adding congressional and general assembly races.



Vote Analysis

How accurate is this data?
There are some imperfections in the data, in most cases it has to do with inconsistencies with how various election authorities deal with write in candidates than can throw some totals off by a few hundredths of a percent. For example the Vote Share by Region totals you may notice that if you add the Chicago total and the Cook County suburban total it doesn't exactly equal the Cook County total. The data for the county totals comes from the state board of elections, the data from the Chicago totals come from the Chicago board of elections and the Cook county suburban totals come from the Cook County board of elections. I've done the best I can but if you notice small discrepancies this is part of the reason.


What is "vote share"?
Vote share is the percentage of the total statewide vote that comes from a particular region. This data is helpful to understand population shifts over time.


What is the difference between "traditional collars" and "expanded collars"?
There are two ways of looking at the collar counties, each has value depending on the situation. Traditionally the collar counties have been defined by the five nearest suburban counties: Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will. Given their size and voting patterns it makes it logical to group them together, and having a detailed analysis that isolates this group has value. The Traditional Collars (5) are Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will counties. "Downstate" is the total of the remaining 96 counties.

However in an election where there is significant paid communication it also makes sense to evaluate voter behavior based on their response to the paid communication they are exposed to. In the Chicago media market there are 12 counties exposed to the ads being aired in that media market and given the size of the electorate in the City of Chicago and the Cook County suburbs it makes sense to evaluate them separately. You are then left with the other 11 counties in the market and it makes it logical to group them together, and having a detailed analysis that isolates this group has value. The Expanded Collars (11) are Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane, Will, Dekalb, LaSalle, Kendall, Grundy, Kankakee and Iroquois counties. "Downstate" is the total of the remaining 90 counties.



Budget

How did you get this data and why is it considered an approximation?
In order to produce these reports I downloaded the transaction data from the electronically filed reports of the candidates. For the contributions I just summed up the totals of each line on the campaign finance report so that you could see the types of contributions coming in. I then went through the expenditures one by one and assigned them to a category based on either the purpose given or the name/type of vendor, or both.

However, these are still only approximations for a number of reasons. First the transaction is based on the date given on the report but since sometimes expenses are held or not paid right away the data listed may not represent the best date for that expenditure. Second, the line items listed are my best guess could be inexact. For example a campaign usually pays the same vendor (their media advisor) for the production expenses and their media buys so if the campaign finance report had transactions that were mislabeled that would affect those two lines. Further the line between payroll employees and consultants is often blurry so in some cases those two line items may be interrelated. And last not every transaction is itemized, but I have tried to add in unitemized amounts when known. The complicated methodology for recording/reporting federal candidate contributions and expenditures have greater variance. It's best to consider these budget approximations in their entirety rather than in just small specific pieces.


Why are media buys listed by week instead of by month like the budgets are?
Media buys, specifically television buys are often, but not always, bought in weekly increments. When tv time is bought in specific increments it is most often bought in weekly increments so that is a more useful measurement than a monthly measurement. Calculating Week 1, 2, 3, ... etc. is done by the following: starting on the Tuesday of election day working backwards to the previous Wednesday is Week 1. Continuing to work backwards from the next Tuesday to the preceding Wednesday will give you Week 2, and so forth all the way to Week 12 in early-mid August. Anything before Week 12 is just listed as pre-fall and anything after election day is listed as Post-Gen.


Do you have media buy information for the primary?
I did not take the time to isolate and chart the weeks of media buys for candidates in the primary, every media buy expense prior to the fall is just lumped together as "pre-fall". However I have made the full database of transactions available and you can download the individual transactions and create your own.


Accounting for In-Kind Contributions
You should be aware of how in-kind contributions are accounted for depending on what type of campaign (federal or state) you are looking at, particularly if you are comparing these totals to filed reports. It's important to remember that an in-kind contribution is just having a donor pay a campaign expense directly, so while it's common to just think of them as a type of contribution it is really both a contribution and a disbursement and will affect both totals. For federal campaigns filing disclosure reports with the FEC in-kind contributions are somewhat hidden in plain sight. On federal reports an in-kind contribution is automatically added to both the contributions side and the disbursements side and when you look at the report totals of an FEC report you are seeing totals that include in-kind contributions. For state filings in-kind contributions are segregated and reported in their own section. For the purpose of building the reports found on this site I added the in-kind contributions for state reports to both the contributions side and the disbursements side. In the monthly budgets you will see a line item in the contributions section for these contributions, on the disbursements side the totals show up in the categories for which the donation was made. For example if a donor paid directly for catering for a fundraiser that amount will show up in the "Events/Fundraising" line.


How is the election cycle calculated?
To keep things simple I am using the calendar year election cycle meaning a cycle ends on December 31st following a general election and the next cycle begins on January 1st. The congressional races are on two year election cycles and the statewide elections for the constitutional offices are on four year cycles. For example a congressional election in 2010 had an election cycle from 1/1/09 to 12/31/10 while the Governor's race in 2010 had an election cycle from 1/1/07 to 12/31/10.


Why do some candidates have more than one committee listed?
Prior to contribution limits going into effect in January of 2011 there was no legal issue preventing campaigns from having/using more than one campaign committee. There was no legal advantage to having multiple committees (just extra bookkeeping) so the only reason to do so was cosmetic. In 2006 Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz aligned with Republican Lt. Governor candidate Steve Rauschenberger and they opened a joint committee to share some contributions and expenditures. Also in 2010 after Sheila Simon was added to the ticket with Governor Quinn the Governor opened a second committee (Quinn/Simon for Illinois) while Shelia Simon did not open a committee of her own despite being allowed to do so. These situations are uncommon and make some comparison's difficult. Also you should be aware that some of the money "raised" in multi-committee situations is simply the transferring of funds back and forth and you should take that into account if trying to determine the total raised by one of these candidates rather than simply adding the totals of the committees together.


Why are some companies listed in the payroll reports?
Sometimes they are part of the payroll expense (such as a payroll processing service) but in most other situations the company provided an in-kind contribution by paying for staffers used by the campaign.


2002 Cycle - Some Data Not Available
For 2002 statewide campaigns not all of these campaigns started filing their reports electronically. The adoption of electronic filing varied from committee to committee so if you're very interested in this time period it may be best to review this data along with the reports from the State Board of Elections to make sure you're getting the data you wanted to see.


How can I see data for all candidates when querying the database?
Unfortunately you are forced to select one candidate when querying the database. As you can imagine the database of all these transactions is quite large and a full data dump would take a long time to download and post to your screen. The settings of my hosting company only allow for 30 seconds before quitting and posting a failure error and testing showed that trying to display all of the data would consistently encounter this error.


What if I find errors?
Considering the many steps necessary to produce this data it's almost a mathematical certainty that there are errors so please let me know and I'll do what I can to fix them. Thanks.



Live Illinois SBE Financial Data

How do you get this data?
Each night I download the entire set of SBE data tables from the SBE FTP site.


Do you download this data or is it coming direct from the SBE?
I download the full set of SBE data tables and then I insert that data into my own database. All SBE data you see on my site comes from queries on my own database.


How often is it updated?
The SBE makes their data tables available each night at 9pm. Around 2am my server runs a script to download the data and then insert it into my database, that process takes about 30 minutes and the financial data is unavailable while the script is running. For most of the day the SBE financial data is current as of 9pm the previous night. However from about 9pm until 2am when the update script runs it is current as of 9pm two nights before.



Live FEC Financial Data

How do you get this data?
This data is provided by the FEC API.


Do you download this data or is it coming direct from the FEC?
It is coming direct from the FEC via API calls. In order to improve page loading times we are downloading the API data every two hours and saving that to a database, the pages then load from the database which is much, much faster. The FEC API is still in beta form and has had some bugs. For example there have been times when the cash on hand for US Senate candidates has returned NULL instead of an expected numerical value. It's a work in progress.


How often is it updated?
That's unclear. The documentation doesn't say and I haven't been using it long enough or frequently enough to get a sense of its update schedule.



General

I found an error in your data.
Since this is a data driven website I've done everything that I can to see that there are no errors. However the data presented here was consolidated from literally hundreds of files I had and it's always possible that something got copied and pasted incorrectly or that a format is missing. If you come across any data that you think may be in error please pass it along. You can reach me by email at Scott.Kennedy (at) illinoiselectiondata.com.


What other resources do you commonly use?
Check out my Resources page for links to other helpful utilities.