NC-Votes.org launches this week with the goal of finding ways to make public election data useful to citizens and journalists who want to better understand North Carolina’s dynamic political environment. Ryan Thornburg, associate professor at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, leads the project and brought together an interdisciplinary group of data scientists, journalists and statisticians to collaborate on NC Votes.
David Raynor, the News & Observer’s database editor, worked with journalism students Kirk Bado and Danielle Chemtob to figure out what kinds of tools newsrooms need to utilize this data. Raynor says, “This tool will take years of election and voter data and break it down into pieces that provide insights into who and how they won, who voted and who might win the next election. And, as a reporter, you’ll save time from having to download, clean and analyze the data yourself.” With as many as 46 million records available in varying formats through the state board of elections, the NC Votes team is working to finish adding every record to its public-facing database by early 2018.
The team behind NC Votes encourages people to get involved in the discussion on its Slack channel. While the data is currently limited to North Carolina, the team hopes that other states can replicate the database. NC Votes has published several repositories on GitHub where those interested in the coding behind the data can view analytics. The records have been collected since the summer of 2017 and go back as far as 1993. NC Votes is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of its News Challenge program.