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It's time for our quasi-quadrennial project: crunching the presidential election results for all 435 congressional districts. I say "quasi" because we've already done this twice now: once following the 2008 election, and again in 2011-12, after each state went through its decennial redistricting process. Now we have a fresh data set from the just-concluded 2012 general election, and it's time to get cracking once more!

The 2008 edition of this project was a serious community effort: It began right after the election and didn't conclude until March 2009. Why did it take so long? The entire exercise is really a two-part project: gathering the data we need, then analyzing it. The latter can be tricky work, but the most time-consuming part by far is the former.

That's because in order to actually crunch the numbers, we need a ton of precinct-level election results. While some states make precinct-level data available via a statewide elections official (like the Secretary of State), many do not. That means a lot of time spent canvassing individual county boards of election. Indeed, our analysis says we need to reach out to no fewer than 180 jurisdictions.

And that in turn means getting down deep into the nitty gritty of very local government: Some BoEs post their precinct results online, some will email them to you if you ask, some require you to call, some even require you to fax or snail-mail a request. Often times, you get ignored, so you need to make multiple requests. And then, oy, sometimes they'll snail-mail you back a hardcopy, which you have to scan! Like I said, it's a serious time-suck.

Now, we're not quite ready to start gathering actual results yet, since we need to wait until official results are certified. The certification deadlines vary from state to state, but generally speaking, they range from November through December. So that means we have to wait a bit before doing actual data collection.

In the meantime, though, you can help us collect contact information for all the county election boards we will eventually need to canvass. You can do that by opening up this spreadsheet, finding any counties which have no contact info, and then Googling and filling things in. We're not looking for anything fancy: just website and contact email address (if they exist), and phone number (which damn well better exist somewhere).

Note that local elections offices aren't always called the "board of elections." They go by lots of different names, like registrar, clerk, and so forth. So sometimes you might need to get a little creative. But all this information should be out there somewhere. And if we can gather it now, it'll make tracking down certified results much easier, as soon as those become available.

Thank you so much for your help! And again, here's the link to get started.


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