Code for Philly stages hackathon to mine, refine election data for voters

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The City of Philadelphia is releasing a number of election-related databases, just in time for a weekend hackathon put on by the group Code For Philly.

 Software writers and other participants at this weekend’s democracy-themed event inside the Municipal Innovation Lab will be able to tinker with information ranging from turnout to polling place staff to the number of registered voters by ward.

Already accessible through Right to Know requests, the data sets now will be continuously available on the city’s open data website

“The point is to get a project that operates in the civic space,” said Code for Philly’s Dawn McDougall. “And it could be an app, it could be a website, it could be a visualization, it could be a chart or a graph that’s just really beautiful … something that makes the information consumable to the larger public.”

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After brainstorming ideas and breaking into teams Friday evening, hackers will spend Saturday and Sunday working on projects that seek to turn raw figures into useful tools.

The data release is part of a larger push from within the Nutter Administration to inventory and share information in a more streamlined fashion.

“Data transparency helps individuals know what’s going on in their community, and who they can contact, as well as how they themselves can participate,” said Stacey Mosley with the Office of Innovation and Technology.

Mosley and colleagues have been working with agencies across city government, cataloging data sets and requesting public input on what information is in highest demand. This release of election data in a digital format, all maintained within the City Commissioners Office, is the pilot initiative.

“This is the first time that that strategic plan has been put into action, and fully executed, and we are already seeing great results,” said Tim Wisniewski, the city’s chief data officer. “I think this is a sign of what’s to come.”

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