How Open Civic Data is Making Political and Civic Data Easier to Use

How Open Civic Data is Making Political and Civic Data Easier to Use

A common complaint among civic data consumers is the inconsistency in data formatting, delivery and metadata.  As the producers and data collectors for Cicero, we are keenly familiar with the variability in data organization.  Thankfully, the Open Civic Data project has developed data models and tools that make data more accessible and transferable.

One goal of this project is to provide a common format of globally unique identifiers for political divisions. We have recently added these Open Civic Data Division Identifiers to our Cicero database. With this addition, a user can now connect Cicero’s information about political districts to other databases by using the standardized “civic division” identifier.  This helps in making the Cicero database more robust while supporting a collaborative effort for making division identifiers easier to use among various data providers.

The OCD ID system is standardized and hierarchical.  It can describe to a variety of geographic boundaries and districts including both administrative and political.  For example, OCD IDs can describe country, state, county, place, cd (congressional district), sldl (state legis. lower), sldu (state legis. upper), ward, hoa (home owner’s association), council district, electoral district and more!

OCD IDs can be used to uniquely identify political districts. This map features Pennsylvania House Districts.

For example,

Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District would be defined as:

New Jersey’s State 4th Assembly District (state legislative, lower district) would be defined as:

Philadelphia’s 9th Council District would be defined as:

Meanwhile, we will continue to grow the existing Cicero database with new and expanded data. The new OCD ID system has been developed by several organizations working together to solve a difficult problem.  We applaud the work by Sunlight FoundationOpenStates, Google, OpenNorth, and many others. We believe in promoting these standards, and we are committed to enabling Cicero to help people connect with their legislators and providing them with powerful information about their community.