Score one for the City of Philadelphia Commissioners’ Office in the department of government transparency and doing cool stuff with data.
It wasn’t always that technologically up to speed.
Visit the city election data tool here.
City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer, elected last fall and formerly a Democratic ward leader, has been requesting election results from the Commissioners’ office since 2002. She’d post the data on Philadems.org, an unofficial site for the city’s Democratic party.
But the office used to give Singer the data in paper form, which she says made it hard to do much along the lines of large-scale analysis. In 2008, she says she threatened to sue the City Commissioners’ Office for not giving her electronic data. Since then, she was able to get electronic election results.
Now, in her new position as chairwoman of the office, she wants to make sure everyone has access to that election data — and also has the tools to make sense of it.
Built by civic hacker Tim Wisniewski (yes, the ‘Developer in Black,’ for his largely black wardrobe), who was on the City Commissioners’ transition team and now works at the Managing Director’s Office with the city’s 311 call center, Analyze the Vote provides election results dating back to 2007, as well as scatter plots and maps that allow you to compare election results by year, by location and by candidate.
Singer is ecstatic about the tool’s capabilities.
“It’s just fabulous for knowing what questions to ask,” she says. “You just look at it and say: OK, what happened in the 20th division?”
She especially likes how the site allows you to compare election data from previous years.
Singer says Analyze the Vote is all about “leveling the playing field.” In the past, she says, only political insiders had access to certain kinds of data.
“Elections should be free and fair,” she says. “I want to give people the tools to run effective campaigns.”
Currently, Singer pays for the privately-hosted site — she says the cost is under $1,000 per year, though it depends on how many people use it in the future. But as soon as she can get the site “through the city bureaucracy” and onto government hosting, the Commissioners’ office will pay for it, she says.
The site has been live for some time, but Singer says her office hasn’t had the time to make any formal announcements about it.
Singer, a former math professor, isn’t a stranger to the tech world. She spent a year at Stanford University doing Computer Science graduate studies. She calls herself an “amateur hacker.”
“I know enough to be dangerous,” she says.
Keep it coming, chairwoman.