Client: Committee of Seventy
Challenge: On Election Day, The Committee of Seventy works with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to coordinate the Election Oversight Program, a voter protection program in which it monitors, documents and responds to election irregularities through the combined efforts of volunteers at a command center and teams of lawyers and volunteers deployed throughout Philadelphia County. In the command center, team leaders field calls from voters, polling officials, and volunteers reporting election irregularities and coordinate field teams to respond accordingly. Seventy had been using a pin map in the command center to track incident locations and assist in dispatching field volunteers. While this was helpful, the map was not something that could be circulated among staff, with the management team, or to volunteers in the field. Seventy wanted a solution that would enable incident locations to be shared easily with field volunteers and with the media in real time
Solution: Using a mix of open source and commercial software tools including ESRI's ArcGIS and ModelBuilder technologies, Google Maps, Open Layers, GeoServer and PostGIS, Azavea built a web-based application that enabled rapid data entry as incident information was received and easy search by incident types. Volunteers entered incident data as it came in from the field volunteers in the application, including time, incident type, and location, and the incident would instantly appear on the map, color-coded by type of incident. At intervals during the day, the incident data would be imported to the ArcGIS tools and a series of geoprocessing models would be run to generate print-quality summary maps.
Outcomes: Free and fair elections are the bedrock of democracy. Projected on the command center wall, the real-time incident map provided an up-to-the-minute look at where incidents were unfolding throughout the city. Putting the map online enabled it to be shared easily with field volunteers and members of the media. The ability to overlay the incident map with political boundaries such as state senate and state house districts meant that viewers could easily assess whether any particular race or district was experiencing more issues than others, enabling management staff and volunteers to understand problematic trends as they developed, and respond accordingly. These reports and their accompanying maps help to paint a picture of just what occurs on Election Day, and exactly what issues and geographic locations need the most attention from voting officials. When combined with the summary maps and follow up after-election reports, they contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the region's electoral process.
GISCafe Weekly, January 2008
GeoWorld, Fall 2008