Map the Vote Builds a GIS-based National Election Precinct Data Set

By Joe Francica

Map the Vote, a partner of the National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC), a progressive political action committee, contracted with Farallon Geographics to build a precinct-level data set for key battleground states in this year's U.S. presidential election. With data from the Democratic National Committee and using Oracle Spatial, Farallon processed over 20 million voter records to produce election precinct data sets. Editor-in-chief Joe Francica contacted Joe Metro, vice president of marketing for Farallon Geographics, to discuss the specifics.

Joe Francica (JF): You indicated that "key battleground states” are mapped. Which states are they? Did the DNC or NCEC specifically request these states?

Joe Metro (JM):
We cannot divulge which specific states were processed due to confidentiality issues involved; however most are considered key battleground states. These states were selected by NCEC, not DNC.

JF: The map in the press release shows point locations. The press release says that you processed voter records to determine precinct locations. Did you derive a polygon from these point records? Will the precincts be mapped as polygon boundaries specifically?

Yes - we did derive polygons from the point record. Yes - the final output is precinct polygons.

JF: You used Oracle Spatial. Did you choose a spatial database to process because the 20 million records could not be processed by a desktop GIS?

We chose Oracle Spatial for many reasons. The main reason was its ability to process the large data volumes more quickly and efficiently than a desktop GIS could.

JF: Were there specific functions in Oracle that allowed you to do the work in the database and not with another GIS solution? Which GIS was used to display the work or did you simply use the Oracle MapViewer?

We used "Locator" level functionality like sdo_relate, and nearest neighbor. For some of the processing steps that we could have coded in Oracle, we instead chose to use GeoMedia in order to avoid custom programming, which minimized the cost to our client, NCEC. The final deliverable was a shapefile, and therefore visualization of the data (paper or digital) was not a requirement of the project. When our processing required visualization, we used GeoMedia.

JF: Can anyone use or purchase these precincts or are they only available to the organization that requested the work?

The data belong to our client, NCEC, and are not publicly available.

JF: Was thought given to segmenting the database for mobile technology since the information would be used for canvassing?

Farallon has done mobile work on other projects but this was not requested for this one. But there is nothing that would prevent us from using it that way.

Published Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Written by Joe Francica

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