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Historic Achievements in U.S. Polling Place Plotting

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, October 25 2010

Photo credit: Heather Katsoulis

The New Organizing Institute's Anthea Watson is very pleased to announce that, as of yesterday, the Voting Information Project has finally pulled together a "free, consolidated source of polling location data for the entire country." NOI is partners in the VIP effort with Pew and Google, the latter of which is, according to NOI, set to release a Google Gadget shortly that should make it Google-easy for people to make use of the data. For now, the data's available in bulk download through NOI, with precinct ID numbers being the consistent tag throughout the data set.

Because of the patchwork way the U.S. has of doing elections, no one authority knows about every school, city hall, and senior center that Americans go to to pull the lever or scan their ballots or whatever the case may be. That might be a triumph of American federalism, but it makes it super tough to build customized get-out-the-vote apps when you don't know where to tell people to go vote come election day. According to Watson, VIP managed the task such as they have by aggregating data from Catalist, the DNC, and other sources. Here's where you go to grab the data.

Yeah, there's no real way to make the idea of a coherent data set of polling place locations sound sexy or exciting, but it's incredibly important stuff. At the very least, it's one step closer to making the American election system as basically functional as many Americans probably assume it already is.