King County Elections Takes Open Data Mobile

Customer: King County

Recreational marijuana use? Same sex marriage? Romney or Obama?

These contentious issues had Washington state citizens closely watching the races leading up to their Nov. 6, 2012 election night.

Behind the scenes of all this excitement, in the most populous county in the state, King County Elections offered its nearly 1.2 million registered voters something they’d never had in an election before: mobile-friendly voting information and results.

Providing What Citizens Want

Where do citizens look for the information? Increasingly, they rely on cell phones.

In fact, King County voters indicated in a 2011 survey that there were a number of elections-related actions they’d like to be able to do via their mobile devices. Those that rated the highest included checking the latest elections results and counting down the time left to return a ballot.

“Our goal was to provide voters with easier and faster access to elections information so they could get what they needed most while on the go,” says King County Elections Chief Communications Officer Kim van Ekstrom.

A Short Deadline

King County Elections received funding from the state’s share of a “Help America Vote Act” grant to develop web-based tools for voters. The final decision to move forward on mobile came just a month and a half before the 2012 presidential election ballots were to be sent out.

“Most of our work on the grant had already been completed. By the time we decided to develop pages for mobile devices, the project was running out of time and we did not have the ability to extend the grant. We utilized Socrata to piggyback the project onto the open data platform,” says Dale Hartman, IT manager for King County.

Interactive and Mobile-Friendly Open Data

Using Socrata DataSlate™, Socrata’s team built web pages specifically for small, mobile devices, with interactive charts visualizing results, as well an interactive map of ballot drop box locations.

Interactive: The charts allowed users to scroll over certain sections to get more detail.

Dynamic: All of the charts were updated automatically as soon as King County loaded fresh results or information to their FTP site.

Practical: The mobile-friendly map of ballot dropbox locations gave users “pinpoints” they could select to request directions to their nearest ballot drop box location. They even received a site photograph as a reference.

In addition, Socrata built an updated “Countdown Clock” to the ballot drop off deadline that would look great on mobile devices.

Just in Time for the Elections

The project was completed successfully and on time. “It was a good collaboration. We delivered the services that we wanted to, they looked great, and we were able to do it on a short timeline,” says van Ekstrom.

King County Elections’ efforts to make their Nov. 6 elections results more accessible paid off. More than 236,000 people visited the King County site and viewed the new charts and maps embedded on those pages.

According to the following chart, King County Elections’ site became the busiest site Socrata supported on November 6, 2012. Fortunately, because Socrata's technology is cloud-based, there was no interruption in service to visitors. Every citizen who wanted to see election results was able to see them - on their computer or their mobile device.

A Model for the Future

As mobile election results become the norm, King County Elections' initiative will serve as a model for success.

Commenting on King County’s efforts to keep up with tech-savvy citizens, IT manager Dale Hartman said, “King County Elections has an excellent track record of using technology to improve service to citizens. The development of this mobile tool is a natural next step for Elections and King County government to deliver customer service and recognize the needs of our citizens.”