Elections and Open Data

With only a few days to go before Toronto’s municipal election I want to highlight one of my latest endeavours: EveryCandidate.org. It is a website that mashes up open data to provide insights and analysis on candidates for City Council.

I worked on this project with the amazing Phillip Smith, who was interviewed about the site on CBC’s Metro Morning.

One of the elements I enjoyed about this project was the challenge that Philip approached me with: What is the most amount of research you can do on candidates for the least amount of hours. Using the names, emails and postal codes of candidates, we were able to gather large amounts of information on candidates without looking each one up one at a time.

The site includes a profile page for each candidates for City Council and Public School Trustee. Each of these profiles include information such as if their name appears in the lobbyist registry, if they ran for office, or donated money in the last two elections, if they live inside the ward they are running in – and if not, how far away they live, as well as contact information and links to surveys on the councillors activities from other websites.

As well as these profile pages we created several articles and blog posts. One looked at the fact that over 35% of candidates for city council live outside the ward they are running in and explored a range of views on if living inside the ward is relevant. Another showed how many twitter followers each candidate has. We also used councillors twitter accounts to create a page that show the faces of almost all the candidates for city council.

I also published a chart that shows what portion of the current councillors’ donations in the last election came from inside their own ward and what portion came from outside of city limits. The results are fascinating, for example Giorgio Mammoliti had only 1% of his funds come from his own constituents. I had originally created this graphic a few months ago, but earlier efforts to publish it fell through, and I wanted to get it out before the election. A write up is found here, but I have also pasted the chart at the bottom of this post.

The election is almost over, but in order to make this project happen I had to learn a lot of new skills and I am looking forward to finding other places I can put them to use.


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